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  • HMC Staff Writer

The Link Between Oral Hygiene and Heart Health is Significant

It’s February, the month of love and American Heart Month. The American Heart Association is celebrating 100 years of promoting cardiovascular health, and February is the time of year to focus on small changes that can include choosing healthy foods or adding more movement into your day. But did you know that maintaining good oral hygiene, such as regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups, is important for your heart health as

well?

            The link between oral hygiene and cardiovascular health has been a subject of interest and research for several decades. While the exact details of the connection are actively being studied, there is evidence to suggest that gum disease, or periodontitis, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The most studied area of research between this connection is inflammation caused by bacteria. The mouth is home to millions of bacteria, some of which can be harmful if they enter the bloodstream. Gum disease, which is caused by bacteria accumulating in the gums, can lead to inflammation.


Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for many conditions: arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, to name a few. Poor oral health is often associated with other shared risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, age, socioeconomic status, an unhealthy diet, and diabetes. It is theorized that chronic inflammation in the mouth may contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems by promoting inflammation in other parts of the body, including the blood vessels of the heart.


            Another area of research into the connection between gum disease and heart health is endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is when the inner lining of blood vessels does not function properly, and gum disease has been linked to endothelial dysfunction. This dysfunction is a precursor to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Researchers are also investigating the shared pathways that are associated with inflammation in the mouth and the development of atherosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD). It is theorized that bacteria and inflammatory particles directly involved in gum disease also affect the arteries. While more research is needed to fully understand this relationship, a study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that individuals with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have evidence of coronary artery disease as those without. Poor dental health can affect overall diet and inflammation levels, which can affect cardiovascular health as well – a literal snowball effect. This begs the question, Can treating gum disease improve cardiovascular health? More research is needed in this area.


            The link between oral hygiene and heart health is still being explored, but regular brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits are preventive measures that may contribute to a reduced risk of ASVD. What is clear is that taking care of your teeth and gums is important for overall health.



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lap3737
Feb 15

Dr. Nethala is an outstanding cardiologist. He takes excellent care of my mother's heart and for that I am so thankful.

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