It’s been said that your oral health is a window into the health of the rest of your body. It wouldn’t be a complete discussion about the “mouth-body connection” without exploring one of the most powerful consequences of healthy teeth, which is a healthy heart. Accordingly, if your teeth are not at their best, you may be at greater risk for conditions beyond the teeth and gums.
How can teeth affect the heart?
The problems with decay and gum disease are caused by bacteria and inflammation. Of course, you can’t avoid bacteria. It’s estimated 500 to 650 different bacterial species live in the mouth. Most of the time, the bacteria do not cause any problems. Bacteria that are not removed with proper and consistent brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings will build up and promote the development of oral infections such as decay and gum disease. To protect your body, the immune system attacks these infections and therefore, the tissues in your mouth become inflamed.
The inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the soft and hard tissues that hold teeth into place. Teeth shifting and looseness are signs gum disease has progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis, its advanced stage.
Periodontitis is associated with a whole host of problems including heart disease. Around 90 percent of patients with heart disease reportedly have advanced gum disease. A large body of research exists that directly links periodontitis to heart disease. It’s thought the bacteria in the mouth travels and it causes inflammation in the blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart attack. As less blood moves between the heart and the rest of the body, blood pressure rises. A fatty plaque may break loose from the wall of a blood vessel where it travels to the heart or brain and causes a heart attack or stroke.
Endocarditis can arise when bacteria in the oral cavity and other parts of the body enter the bloodstream and attach to damaged parts of the heart.
Heart disease and periodontitis are linked in other ways as well; the two conditions share many risk factors including smoking, poor diet, and excess weight. Studies have connected the dots between poor oral health and other conditions, including pregnancy-related complications, poorly controlled diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and worsening lung diseases such as COPD.
There is no time like the present to help your teeth and heart stay healthy
Know that when you prevent gum disease and tooth decay you may also be preventing heart-related conditions and adding quality years to your life.
It’s important to practice proper brushing and flossing techniques. If you have restorations such as bridges, you may need interdental brushes and flossing aids to access hard-to-reach spaces. Any old or worn restorations may need to be replaced as the bacteria that promote decay can seep into the teeth.
A healthy diet is good for teeth and your entire body. Regular dental check-ups with the friendly staff at Big Smile Dental can bring to light underlying problems, which may be remedied early with tailored treatments like products to stimulate the production of saliva, or customized dental appliances to prevent damage to teeth from nighttime tooth grinding.
Call 773-772-8400 to schedule an appointment with Big Smile Dental. This appointment can represent the beginning of your journey to good oral and overall health, or the means to maintain the healthy teeth that frequently go hand-in-hand with a healthy heart.