For decades, researchers have probed the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health. People with gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event.
Although, there may not be a direct connection, as many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. Shared risk factors, such as smoking or an unhealthy diet, may explain the association. Still there’s a growing suspicion that gum disease may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.
How are poor oral health and heart disease connected?
One theory is chronic inflammation.
Gum disease begins when the sticky, bacteria-laden film referred to as plaque builds up around teeth. Left untreated, the gums become loose around the tooth and bone, creating a pocket that gradually deepens. This chronic gum infection and inflammation leads to bone loss and eventually tooth loss. The bacteria from these infected gum pockets can enter the blood stream where they trigger blood vessel inflammation and damage. Supporting this theory is the finding of remnants of oral bacteria within clogged (atherosclerotic) blood vessels far from the mouth.
To date, there’s no proof that treating gum disease will prevent heart disease or its complications. But the connection is compelling enough that dentists and many doctors recommend good oral health regiments to prevent gum disease in the first place.
The recommended preventive care by American Dental Association is brushing twice daily, each for two minutes, flossing and twice-yearly cleanings by a dentist or hygienist.
Bottom line, good oral health regiments benefit both your mouth and overall health.