Question

Heart Disease and Oral Health

What is the link between tooth decay and heart disease?

A Answers (4)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Tooth disease has been linked to heart disease in a few limited studies. One study found that the bacteria present in gum disease may trigger blood clots which can contribute to a heart attack or stroke. Some other investigators have theorized that the inflammation in your mouth when you have poor dentition increases inflammation in the vessels of your heart which subsequently leads to vessel wall damage and heart attacks. Some of these studies were controversial, however, so it is still an area that needs to be studied. There are many populations that are at risk for heart disease and periodontal disease, but this may not necessarily mean that one is causing the other. Anyone can have a heart attack…at any time. However, this is not usually linked to tooth decay. Much more research is needed before doctors will be able to claim a causative relationship between your oral hygiene and heart disease.
  • ADe Vizio, DMD, Dentistry, answered on behalf of Colgate
    While the exact reasons for the link are unknown, there is a relationship between heart disease and tooth decay. Keeping your teeth healthy makes a difference in keeping your heart healthy. Without regular cleaning, plaque builds up on your teeth and hardens into tartar. Tartar, also called calculus, can inflame your gums, making it more difficult to clean your teeth. It also makes your gums bleed more, which can allow bacteria into your bloodstream. One concern with heart disease is that bacteria from the mouth can travel through the blood to the heart, causing an infection called endocarditis. If you can keep your teeth and gums healthy, this helps to keep bacteria from traveling to your heart.
  • There is no conclusive research showing that tooth decay causes heart disease, but studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions including heart disease, diabetes or stroke. However, saying that two conditions are associated is not the same as saying that one causes the other. Talk to your dentist about your overall health, especially if you have had any recent illnesses or have any chronic conditions. At home, practice good oral hygiene by always brushing your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste, replacing your toothbrush every three or four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed, flossing once a day between the teeth and by remembering to eat a balanced diet and to limit between-meal snacks.
  • AThomas Connelly, Dentistry, answered

    We don't really know, to be perfectly honest. But usually where there's smoke, there's fire, and there is indeed "some" smoke here. We're all just guessing at this point, but it's probably due to bacteria entering the bloodstream and traveling to the heart. That's the best answer I can give now - more study is being done on this, so hopefully in a few years, we'll have a more definitive answer.

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