Periodontal Disease and Heart Health... is there a link?
Updated: Jul 25, 2018
Lauren Janowiecki | Thomas C. Volck, D.D.S. | 07/19/2018
As a business manager/designer that dabbles in medical information technology and blogging, I am by no means a medical expert. Which means there's a LOT about the body and all of its quirks that still boggle my brain. So when our EFDA, Kashel, came up and asked me to write a blog about the link between periodontal disease and heart disease I, quite literally, laughed out loud. I mean seriously- gums and teeth are NO WHERE NEAR the heart, right?! How could there possibly be a connection between the two? As ridiculous as it sounded to me, I can't pass up a good challenge. I decided to take on the subject, and found myself deep in the world of all things blood vessels.
What I found, was both impressive, and, not going to lie, a little scary.
As we all know, our bodies are impressive and mysterious things. And unless you are an educated healthcare provider, there is a lot that I think many people don't know. Like how there is a VERY real connection between your teeth, gums, and heart health. According to the report (below) by Kelli Miller, Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD, and Scott Merritt, DMD, the connection is much greater than I expected.
"Does a healthy mouth equal a healthy heart?" More and more, the research says "yes." Doctors have been talking about the potential link for nearly two decades and with good reason. Heart disease is a serious problem around the world. So is poor oral health. Could better brushing and flossing give you a healthier heart? And could dentists take a peek inside your mouth and see if you're at a greater risk for heart disease?
Doctors say YES.
"For the most part, the data is circumstantial. It's hard to prove cause and effect," says Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD. He's the medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services in Grand Rapids, MI. "However, I think the data is pretty strong and there is definitely a link."
Scott Merritt, DMD, founder and partner of Bridgemill Dentistry in Canton, GA, agrees. "I absolutely believe there is a strong correlation between oral disease and heart function."
What's the link? In a few words- inflammation (swelling) and infection. Scientists have proven that inflammation leads to atherosclerosis, which essentially means "hardened arteries". This is a condition that makes it hard for blood to flow to and from your heart. Blood transports nutrients and oxygen to the rest of the body- both of which being requirements for survival. Obviously, this means atherosclerosis is a bad thing, and puts you at greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
Inflammation is also a sure sign of gum disease. There are two main types: gingivitis, which causes red, painful, tender gums, and periodontists, which leads to pockets of infection. Periodontists is the one that raises more worry for heart problems. Those un-diagnosed or untreated pockets of infection allows bacteria and other toxins to spread below the gum line, where exposed blood vessels live, and get directly into the blood stream. Often with periodontists and gingivitis, lacerations and open sores develop, once again leading to that direct blood stream infection.
"Your gums are very vascular, meaning they're full of blood vessels. And, your mouth is full of bacteria. If you disrupt the gum layer even a little bit, you're going to get bacteria in your bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation and infection throughout the body," Boyden says. "[And] Inflammation is one of the main things that cause damage to blood vessels, including those of the heart."
Studies show that the bacteria found in periodontal disease -- including Streptococcus sanguis, which plays a role in strokes-- spreads to the heart. "The two appear to go hand-in-hand," Merritt says. "In the absence of gum disease, there is significantly less of these bacteria in the heart."
People: periodontal disease is preventable AND treatable!!!
Like everything else your healthcare professional tells you- if you properly care for your body, it WILL function better for you. Brush you teeth. Floss.Take time to care for your teeth and gums. GO TO YOUR DENTIST. These are small steps that can keep BIG issues from arising in the future. Gum disease is no joke- and heart disease is even worse. And because these two go hand in hand, you cannot afford to ignore either one of them. Call us today for a check up- its never too late to start treating or preventing 937-898-8990.