The Links Between Your Oral Health and Heart Health

The Links Between Your Oral Health and Heart Health

Heart Health

Heart disease is a silent killer that wiped out 46,946 Australians in 2012 (that’s 30% of all deaths that year). Cardiovascular disease was also the leading cause of 523,805 hospitalisations in 2011/12 and played a secondary role in a further 800,000 cases, according to the Heart Foundation. There are a variety of reasons why diseases of the heart occur, but did you know that your oral health is linked to and affects your heart health?

Your Dentists are Aware of the Link Between Oral and Systemic Health

While it may seem strange to consider how the health of the heart is connected to the mouth, at Sydney Holistic Dental Centre, this is what we are all about – the links between your oral and general health. There are a variety of reasons that the heart and mouth are interconnected:

  1. Research has shown that those experiencing moderate or advanced periodontal (gum) disease are more susceptible to heart health problems than those with absolute oral health.
  2. A person’s health can be determined just by looking inside the mouth. Oral health provides accurate warning signs and clues regarding a person’s well-being.

Gum Disease Increases the Risk of Heart Attacks

Your mouth is a passageway to numerous types of organisms and bacteria. The Academy of General Dentistry has stated that those who have been dealing with chronic gum health conditions are prone to having a heart attack.

Gingivitis is the term given to gum disease during its premature stages. As this disease progresses, it evolves into a periodontal disease mainly caused by plaque build-up.

Studies suggest that there is a considerable possibility that poor gum health is one factor for poor heart health due to the findings that bacteria derived from the infected gums can be dislodged, after which it goes down to the bloodstream and attach themselves to the blood vessels. The outcome? Increased clot formation.

Inflammatory conditions due to poor gum health are another sinister reason that can trigger the increased formation of clots in the bloodstream.

Once increased, clots cause blockages, resulting in decreased blood flow to different parts of the body and, essentially, to the heart.

Elevated blood pressure is one of the main symptoms of heart disease.

Some basic risk factors for gum disease are diabetes, smoking, poor nutrition, and gender (being male).

Gum Infection May Be a Risk Factor for Heart Arrhythmia

Gum disease, known as periodontitis, is linked to dental issues such as bad breath, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. A study suggests it may also be connected to heart problems, specifically atrial fibrosis. Researchers discovered a significant relationship between periodontitis and atrial fibrosis in 76 patients with heart disease.

As reported in Science Daily, researchers at Hiroshima University have recently discovered that this common oral issue might be connected to more severe health problems, specifically related to the heart.

The Links Between Your Oral Health and Heart Health

Research Findings: Inflammation Links Periodontitis and Atrial Fibrosis

In a study published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, the researchers found a significant connection between periodontitis and atrial fibrosis, a type of scarring in the heart’s left atrium. This scarring can lead to an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation.

Key findings From the Study:

  • Significant correlation between the severity of periodontitis and the severity of atrial fibrosis
  • Inflammation from poor gum health could potentially worsen atrial fibrosis
  • Periodontal disease might be a new modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation
  • Shunsuke Miyauchi, the study’s first author, explained that inflammation from poor oral hygiene could potentially worsen atrial fibrosis.

Although the study provides evidence that inflammation around the teeth could be a new factor that can be modified for atrial fibrillation, Yukiko Nakano, the corresponding author, cautions that it doesn’t prove a direct causal link between the two. More research is needed to establish whether treating poor dental health can effectively alter the severity of atrial fibrosis.

“Further evidence is required for establishing that poor oral health contributes to the atrial fibrosis in a causal manner and that periodontal care can alter fibrosis,” Nakano said.

Future Implications: Dental Care in Atrial Fibrillation Management

Nakano highlights the potential benefits of including dental care in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management, alongside addressing other risk-related factors like weight, activity levels, and tobacco and alcohol use. Addressing oral health problems could be a cost-effective target for reducing atrial fibrillation risks, benefiting many people worldwide if proven to be a modifiable factor.

“Periodontitis is an easy, modifiable target with lower cost among known atrial fibrillation risk factors. Thus, the achievement of this study series may bring benefits for many people worldwide.”

Oral Health vs. General Health

Did you know that the majority of systemic diseases (more than 90%), which includes heart disease, correlate with oral symptoms? Because of that, dentists can quickly pinpoint heart disease through proper oral examination and checking for any signs of inflammation, pain or infection. The following steps can be made for preventative health through appropriate diagnosis and immediate treatment of poor oral health and tooth infections. How to spot if you have unhealthy gum problems:

  1. You have swollen, red or tender gums.
  2. Your teeth are getting loose or being separated from one another.
  3. Bleeding gums during flossing or brushing.
  4. Chronic, worse case of bad breath.

Prevent it before it gets worse

The best prevention is battling it out on its core, where it started – in your mouth. Here are some simple ways to prevent gum disease, thus preventing systemic diseases like heart disease.

  1. Two-minute brushing at least two times a day. Healthy gumlines are essential, don’t disregard them while brushing.
  2. Floss every day to get rid of plaque.
  3. Mouth rinse is also essential – natural and organic if possible.
  4. Increase consumption of foods packed with vitamins A and C.
  5. Tobacco and cigarettes must be avoided at all costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can bad teeth cause heart problems?

Yes, bad teeth and poor health in the mouth have been linked to an increased risk of cardiac problems. This is because the bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation in other parts of the body, including the heart.

How does poor oral health affect heart health?

Poor dental health, especially gum disease, can lead to inflammation in the body, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. The bacteria from gum disease can also enter the blood vessels and cause plaque buildup in the arteries, leading to blockages and increasing the possibility of heart attack and stroke.

Can periodontal treatment improve heart health?

While more research is needed, studies have suggested that periodontal treatment, such as scaling and root planing or gum surgery, can help improve heart health by reducing inflammation and bacteria in the mouth. However, it is important to note that periodontal treatment alone is not a substitute for proper heart health management, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Can your mouth tell if you’re at risk for heart disease?

In some cases, yes. Some studies have found that specific oral symptoms, such as gum disease, tooth loss, and oral infections, can be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. However, these symptoms alone are not enough to determine your risk for heart disease and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Did you know that the majority of systemic diseases (more than 90%), which includes heart disease, correlate with oral symptoms?

Yes, it is true that many systemic diseases, including heart disease, have been linked to oral symptoms, such as gum problems, oral infections, and tooth loss. This is because the mouth is a window into the health of the rest of the body, and many diseases and conditions can show symptoms in the mouth.

What if you delay or avoid visiting the dentist?

Delaying or avoiding dental visits can lead to untreated oral health problems, increasing heart disease risk and other health problems. Maintaining regular dental visits and good oral hygiene habits is vital to keep your mouth and body healthy.

How does gum disease affect the rest of your body?

A disease of the gums can lead to inflammation in the body, which can affect other systems and organs. Research has linked gum disease to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems.

How can gum disease contribute to the process of having heart disease?

Gum disease can contribute to the development of heart disease by causing inflammation and bacterial buildup in the arteries. This can lead to plaque buildup and blockages, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, the bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and affect the heart and other organs.

Do you have concerns or more questions about any of the above? Explore the SHDC website for more information on a holistic approach to oral health and feel free to contact us for more information.