February is American heart Month, and we want to make sure we remind everyone that oral health is vital for a healthy heart. We understand that this is news for many people, but the truth is that this is really an old story. In fact, even ancient Egyptians, who often had terrible oral health, suffered heart disease as a result.
The consequences can be deadly: losing all your teeth can nearly double your risk of death from heart conditions. We want to make sure that every patient understands how they can improve their oral health and protect their heart.
Gum Disease Is the Primary Culprit
Gum disease affects about half of all adults, and it also represents a serious heart risk. If you have gum disease, bacteria enter your bloodstream every day, and they can infect your heart. This infection can actually lead to heart failure.
And bacteria that are in your blood can decide to establish colonies in your arteries. Just like the plaque on your teeth, they can build plaque in your arteries. This leads to clogged arteries, which can also lead to heart failure. The plaque can also break off and travel through your arteries to your brain. There it will block the blood supply to your brain: a stroke.
Systemic inflammation contributes to heart risks, as well. Although the mechanism is not understood, when your body is constantly fighting infection stresses the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Abscessed Teeth Are Also a Risk
But it’s not just gum disease that’s been linked to increased risk of heart disease. An infected tooth can also lead to increased heart disease risks. A recent study showed that people with infected teeth had nearly double the risk of coronary artery disease, and 2.5 times the risk of acute coronary syndrome (heart attack and related conditions).
Dental Care Can Help Your Heart
But the good news is that the link between oral health and heart health is a two-way street. Improving the health of your mouth can lead to a healthy heart.
Studies have shown that getting treatment for gum disease, can actually reduce the amount of plaque clogging your arteries. It can also reduce the risk that you’re going to end up in the hospital for heart-related conditions.
There was even some evidence that treating an infected tooth with a root canal will reduce your risk of acute coronary syndrome.
Take Action Today
Are you looking to improve your heart health before you end up in the hospital? Great! There are three easy steps you can take to improve your oral health and your heart health:
- Eat a diet that is heart healthy and tooth healthy
- Brush and floss every day
- Make an appointment for a dental cleaning and checkup
With these three steps, you can significantly improve your oral health and help your heart. Just making your regular dental visits can be a lifesaver–not seeing a dentist in the previous 12 months can increase your risk of death from heart disease and other causes by 50%! We want to take care of our patients and their families, and we firmly believe that good oral health is an essential foundation for healthy hearts, healthy lives, and happy homes.