Is there a link between oral health and heart disease?

It's possible that taking care of your oral health can help in taking care of your heart health.

The American Heart Association published a Statement in April 2012 supporting an association between gum disease and heart disease. The article noted that current scientific data do not indicate if regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease will decrease the incidence, rate or severity of the narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.

Dr. Ozgen Dogan
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Brushing and flossing your teeth might be just as important as a healthy diet and exercising when it comes to heart health. Here are some stats from the American Academy of Periodontology: people with gum disease are almost two times as likely to have heart disease; the more cavities you have and the more teeth you lose to decay, the higher your risk of getting heart disease. The culprit is disease-causing bacteria in our mouths that makes its way to our arteries, causing them to harden and thicken. So brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and regular dental checkups not only make for healthy teeth and gums, they keep your heart healthy too.

Dr. Todd A. Welch, DMD

Cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of men and women in the United States, is a major public health issue contributing to 2,400 deaths each day. Periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys bone and gum tissues that support the teeth affects nearly 75 percent of Americans and is the major cause of adult tooth loss. And while the prevalence rates of these disease states seems grim, research suggests that managing one disease may reduce the risk for the other.

A consensus paper on the relationship between heart disease and gum disease was published concurrently in the online versions of two leading publications, the American Journal of Cardiology (AJC), a publication circulated to 30,000 cardiologists, and the Journal of Periodontology (JOP), the official publication of the American Academy or Periodontology (AAP). Developed in concert by cardiologists, the physicians specialized in treating diseases of the heart, and periodontists, the dentists with advanced training in the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, the paper contains clinical recommendations for both medical and dental professionals to use in managing patients living with, or who are at risk for, either disease. As a result of the paper, cardiologists may now examine a patient’s mouth, and periodontists may begin asking questions about heart health and family history of heart disease.

While additional research will help identify the precise relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, recent emphasis has been placed on the role of inflammation -- the body’s reaction to fight off infection, guard against injury or shield against irritation. While inflammation initially intends to have a protective effect, untreated chronic inflammation can lead to dysfunction of the affected tissues, and therefore to more severe health complications.

Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A heart-healthy life includes good oral hygiene; gum disease, which leads to inflammation and bacteria, can actually increase your risk for heart disease. Watch as cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, explains how oral health can impact your heart.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.