How Oral Hygiene Can Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
The importance of good oral health stretches far beyond just having a radiant smile and fresh breath. It's an integral part of your overall health, including that of your heart. Research has linked oral health, particularly gum disease, to heart disease. This connection is based on the concept of systemic inflammation, which is common to both conditions.
Understanding the Oral-Systemic Connection
The mouth is home to a diverse and complex community of bacteria, also known as the
oral microbiome. Most of these bacteria are harmless, and a balance is maintained
through daily oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing. However, without
such practices, these bacteria can proliferate, causing infections such as
tooth decay and gum disease, or periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, an inflammatory condition, affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Severe inflammation or infection can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, potentially reaching the heart.
Oral Bacteria and Heart Disease
When oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can travel to various parts of the
body, including the heart. There, they may contribute to the development of
atherosclerosis, a condition where plaques form on the inner walls of the arteries.
These plaques can restrict blood flow to the heart, potentially leading to a
heart attack or stroke.
In addition to plaque formation, oral bacteria in the bloodstream can cause endocarditis, a rare condition where the inner linings of the heart become inflamed.
Several studies over the years have investigated the link between oral health and
heart disease. One review published in the Journal of Periodontology noted that
periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease in comparison to
those with healthy gums1.
Another study also concluded that periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis2.
Oral Hygiene and its Heart-Healthy Benefits
Given these potential connections, maintaining good oral hygiene is not just
essential for preserving your teeth and gums, but it can also help to protect your
heart. Brushing and flossing daily helps remove plaque and bacteria, thereby
reducing inflammation and the risk of periodontal disease.
Moreover, regular dental check-ups allow for early detection and treatment of oral health problems before they develop into more serious conditions. Dental professionals can provide personalized advice on effective oral hygiene practices and address any issues that could potentially affect your overall health.
Diet is another factor that influences both oral and heart health. Consuming a diet low in sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Conclusion: The Broader Picture of Health
Oral health is a crucial aspect of overall wellness, and taking care of your mouth
can be akin to an investment in your total health. The link between oral health and
heart disease emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to health. By
understanding the potential connections between different aspects of our health, we
can make more informed decisions and adopt healthier habits.
While good oral health is important, it's just one piece of the puzzle in heart disease prevention. Regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and having regular medical check-ups are all crucial aspects of heart health.
Humphrey, L. L., Fu, R., Buckley, D. I., Freeman, M., & Helfand, M. (2008).
Periodontal disease and coronary heart disease incidence: a systematic review
and meta-analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(12), 2079-2086.
Dietrich, T., Sharma, P., Walter, C., Weston, P., & Beck, J. (2013). The
epidemiological evidence behind the association between periodontitis and
incident atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Journal of Periodontology,
About This Post and ATA Medical
Information from this post was contributed by ATA Medical and Dr Leonard Leng.
Dr Leonard LengMBBS
Leng graduated with a Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery
(MBBS) degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He
then obtained his Graduate Diploma in Family Medicine and Master of
Medicine in Family Medicine from NUS.
Subsequently, he was accredited as a registered Family Physician with the Family Physicians Accreditation Board under the Ministry of Health, Singapore. Dr Leonard is currently practising at ATA Medical.
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