Oral Health and Heart Health
By: Dr. Katherine Schrubbe
The Oral-Systemic Connection - Your Oral Health and Heart Health
The mouth is the gateway to the body. Not only is your smile often the first thing people notice about you, but it also impacts you in ways that you cannot see. Your oral health impacts your systemic (overall) health, which is why your dentist requests that you complete a medical history at your appointment; it’s important that your dentist knows your medical and family history because your oral health conditions may impact other systems in the body.
Heart Health Month
February is heart health month and is dedicated to focusing on prevention and awareness of heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease causes about 610,000 deaths every year—that’s about 1,670 people per day. Heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the U.S.*
One of the most important mouth-body connections is your heart and mouth. Research has found a link between heart disease and the health of your gums. Having periodontal disease (gum disease) increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28%, according to a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.** So how is this possible?
Oral Inflammation and Heart Health
Inflammation in the mouth causes problems with the cardiovascular system. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease, which contributes to heart disease, is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can block normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly – and this may lead to heart attacks.
Another way oral inflammation affects heart health is through periodontal disease. With periodontal disease, there is often a large buildup of plaque along the gum line, which may contribute to swelling and clotting of the arteries, and lead to serious heart issues and heart attacks.
Preventing Periodontal Disease and Heart Issues
A health care provider can test blood for C-reactive protein levels, which is a sign of inflammation. C-reactive protein levels are found to be high in both patients with periodontitis and those with cardiovascular disease. Treating periodontal disease lowers C-reactive protein levels, and could help to prevent cardiovascular events.
Some of the bacteria in periodontal disease have the ability to destroy connective tissue in the mouth, suggesting that when entering the bloodstream, they infect the heart vessel wall, initiate changes and may contribute to the instability of the plaque - leading to heart attack or stroke.
It is important to know that there is a relationship between your oral health and your heart health. Studies have found that periodontal disease is, by itself, a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Make sure to provide complete information on your heart health at each dental visit so your dentist and hygienist can deliver the best care possible.
What Makes Dental Associates Different
At your first visit to Dental Associates you’ll be asked to provide your medical history via a convenient iPad app. Then at each subsequent visit to your dentist, you’re asked to review your medical history and update any changes. This is done to assure your dentist is providing you the care that aligns with your health needs.
In addition, our dentists and their hygienists are trained to look for signs of periodontal disease as early as possible because we understand that there is a connection between a healthy mouth and healthy heart.
Talk to your dentist at your next visit to make sure your oral health is positively contributing to your overall health. Your heart is counting on it!