The link between dental health, oral health and heart disease is strong. Our mouths are full of bacteria which are mostly harmless, but there are some bad bacteria as well. If you have poor oral health then it tips the balance causing an increase in the bad oral bacteria, which in turn increases oral health issues such as gum disease. There are numerous studies that have proved the connection between oral health and its effect on a person’s overall health.
Exploring the link between dental health and heart disease
What is the importance of identifying the link between dental health and heart disease?
According to the British Heart Foundation as of early 2023, there are about 7.6 million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory disease. Of that around 4 million are men and 3.6 million women. Further, it states that heart and circulatory disease causes around a quarter of all deaths in the UK, which sums up to 460 each day. People with coronary heart disease or those who have had a heart attack are at a higher risk of having a stroke.
There is evidence that mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety can develop when people suffer from heart conditions. As oral health issues such as cavities and tooth decay can lead to periodontal disease it in turn leads to increased risk of heart disease, it is important to maintain good oral health with good oral hygiene habits, to reduce this potential risk.
Bacteria and your heart
According to the WHO, ‘Most oral diseases and conditions share modifiable risk factors with the leading noncommunicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes)’. When bad bacteria levels become high they lead to oral infections that cause periodontal disease and conditions including inflammation of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Called gingivitis during the early stages it causes swollen and bleeding gums. The increased bacteria travel through the bloodstream and latch onto the heart causing damage to the area and inflammation. This is basically how gum disease and cardiovascular disease are interlinked and how bad oral health increases the risk of heart disease.
Good oral health care habits normally keep the bacteria levels in our mouths stabilised and under control, which is why daily brushing and flossing are always recommended. Brushing your teeth promotes healthy gums and teeth which helps with keeping your oral and dental health in good condition.
Alternately, bad oral hygiene will allow the build-up of plaque and then bad bacteria and germs which cause periodontal disease which affects teeth and gums which then further increases the build-up of bacteria. Bad breath or a sudden bad taste, red or swollen gums, tooth sensitivity, receding gums and loose teeth are all signs of periodontal disease. It is best to treat the disease at the early stages because there is no cure once it gets to the later stages.
Oral bacteria vs Cardiovascular health
Cardiovascular health refers to the health of the heart and blood vessels which if compromised can lead to a number of health issues such as strokes, heart failure, heart valve problems, heart arrhythmias as well as coronary heart disease. When you have increased bacteria in the mouth it crosses into your bloodstream and enters the heart and directly infects the heart valves which affects your cardiovascular health.
Another concern is that poor oral health puts additional strain on your immune system which is in a constant state of agitation caused by the excess bacteria entering your bloodstream. This affects its ability to fight again common illnesses.
Shared risk factors of dental health and heart disease
There are shared concerns that should be avoided in order to reduce the risks to both your dental and heart health. Changes to lifestyle habits will have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing. Excess smoking and alcohol consumption are obviously detrimental to your health. Smoking can cause oral cancer, gum disease and promote other oral health issues while alcohol builds up the sugar and acid levels in your mouth which leads to enamel erosion among other issues.
An unhealthy diet is again bad for both oral and overall health. It can encourage tooth decay and starches and sugars can feed the bacteria found in the plaque which harms your tooth enamel. Stress too can lead to oral health problems such as dry mouth, gum disease and canker sources while it can also affect your appetite which leads to poor or unhealthy diet choices.
Keeping your dental health in optimal condition
So far it is clear that dental health has a link and an impact on our heart health and that preventing gum disease and other oral issues is vital towards maintaining good health. By taking a few simple steps we can work towards keeping our dental health in top condition. This will minimise the risk of bad bacteria entering your bloodstream and causing damage.
Schedule regular dental checkups for a thorough inspection of your teeth and gums to spot any potential problems early. Getting your teeth cleaned professionally at least twice a year is beneficial as well. How often you need to visit your dentist will depend on the level of your oral health.
At home practice daily oral hygiene and ensure that you are following proper brushing and flossing techniques to get the maximum benefits from your efforts. As mentioned before, adopting healthy lifestyle choices will have a huge impact on both your oral health and overall health. Quit smoking or at least reduce it significantly and cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume or at least drink water between drinks to moisten your mouth and wash away some of the acidity.
If you feel that your diet is not as good as it can be seek advice and make changes as required that will be beneficial. Good eating habits will reduce the possibility of clogged arteries and stroke risks.
There is an undeniable link between oral health and heart disease, so it is important that we start paying proper attention towards keeping our oral health at peak condition. If you feel that you are not taking enough action then do so now and start working towards your health goals by reducing potential risks wherever possible. Looking after your oral health is actually not a difficult task and one of the easier ways to prevent heart disease problems.