Oral Health and Heart Disease: Is There a Connection?

heartIt has been all over the news that your oral health can affect your overall health. It’s said that periodontal disease (gum disease) can contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. But how? In today’s blog, your Livonia, MI dentist, Dr. James Stewart, explains the oral-systemic connection between oral health and heart disease.

Risk Factors

Studies have shown that periodontal disease and heart disease are both inflammatory diseases that contribute to inflammation in the body. They also share certain risk factors including smoking, age, and diabetes.  Although it has been difficult to determine if one causes the other, it has been proven that the two often exist simultaneously. It is thought that in those people with periodontitis (severe gum disease), harmful bacteria is transported from the gingiva into the blood stream when chewing and swallowing, drinking, or brushing teeth. Several specific bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in plaque in blood vessels of the heart in people suffering from atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).  Atherosclerosis, arteries clogged from plaque, can lead to heart attack.

Another belief is that harmful oral bacteria can damage blood vessels, or cause blood clots. This bacterium may release protein like toxins found in the bloodstream and on the walls of arteries. When your immune system tries fighting these toxins, this can cause the blood vessels even more damage and also make it easier for them to clot contributing to heart attack and stroke.

Another possibility is that the inflammation that results as your body fights against the harmful bacteria in your oral cavity is not contained to the oral cavity but contributes to inflammation throughout the body. This chronic inflammation can cause or exacerbate other chronic illnesses including diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.

Better Safe than Sorry

Avoiding periodontal disease benefits you and your overall health. To do this:

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthwash
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for an exam and a professional cleaning

About Dr. Stewart

James R. Stewart, Jr, DDS, PC and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.