You have probably been told all your life to brush your teeth to prevent cavities, but did you ever consider that brushing could actually save your life? It might sound a little over the top, but it may not be that far-fetched! Many studies have now established that there is a link between periodontal disease and heart disease.
Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in western nations and almost all adults will develop some kind of gum disease during their lifetime, so this connection between the two conditions is worthwhile exploring further.
Research is continuing to be undertaken in order to establish the precise connection between the two health conditions. Scientists are yet to pinpoint a direct cause and effect relationship between gum disease and heart disease. However, it is clear that poor oral health and gum disease substantially increase the risk of developing cardiovascular problems.
Is there a direct cause and effect relationship?
Whether there is a direct cause and effect relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease is yet to be categorically proven. It is therefore not yet clear whether the existence of periodontal disease can be blamed for causing some heart disease. There does however, seem to be clear evidence that those who develop gum disease are much more likely to also have heart disease at some point.
What is clear from the evidence collated thus far from studies around the world is that those who have gum disease are more than two times as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Research into the potential link between the two conditions have been taking place for more than a century and is on-going.
Why might there be a connection between gum disease and heart disease?
There are many potential reasons that gum disease and heart disease may have a special connection. Certain common lifestyle factors have been identified for being possible underlying reasons for a person developing both conditions. Some of these include:
- Being a smoker
- Suffering from diabetes
- Poor diet that is high in processed foods and sugars.
It is being surmised in some scientific camps, that rather than there being a direct causal relationship between the conditions it could be coincidental. For example, the people who smoke, eat poor diets and develop adult onset diabetes may be more likely to neglect their health and also have a poor oral hygiene routine.
There are however other theories that assert that there is a direct relationship between the two conditions and seek to explain why this might be. Some of the theories include:
- Oral bacteria – it is known that oral bacteria can, and does, enter the blood stream during some dental hygiene practices. It is thought that the oral bacteria in the blood stream may latch onto fatty deposits in your arteries and potentially cause blood clots and, of course, blood clots can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
- Inflammation – it is also possible that the oral bacteria cause inflammation, which can cause the arteries to clog up.
Further studies are required in order to categorically determine a direct link between the two conditions or debunk it.
What is clear is that it is essential that people take both their cardiovascular and their oral health seriously. There are many lifestyle factors that can deeply affect these aspects of your health and lead to serious problems.
Advice for protecting your heart and oral health
Periodontal disease is a serious oral health condition that can cause long term problems such as tooth loss and degradation of jaw and gum bone. It may also affect your ability to receive the nutrition that you need since eating can become painful and difficult when the disease has become advanced. Your heart health is obviously a vital aspect of your overall well-being and is worth paying attention to. Fortunately, there are many simple things that you can do to protect your heart and oral health.
- Quit smoking – smoking has been directly linked to both cardiovascular problems and oral health issues. It can be deadly in the long term and in the short term can cause shortness of breath, cavities, yellow teeth, bad breath, gingivitis, poor immune system function and many other conditions. If you are a smoker and you are not sure how to go about quitting visit your doctor or local pharmacy for professional advice.
- Eat a balanced diet – cut down on processed foods and sugar. Eating more fruits and vegetables will ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need for a healthy body. It will also limit cholesterol build up and clogged arteries leading to heart problems. Cutting down on sugar will reduce the amount of bad bacteria that accumulate on your teeth and gums.
- Reduce stress – Stress is sometimes called the “silent killer” with good reason. It has been shown to significantly impact on your immune system function and cause disease. Finding ways to reduce stress and deal better with it will positively impact on your health.
- Follow an appropriate oral health routine – Putting into practise a consistent dental hygiene routine is essential in order to maintain dental and gum health. This should include brushing your teeth after each meal of the day, flossing and using a mouthwash. Each of these three steps is essential in order control bacteria and plaque. Make sure to use appropriate products such as a soft toothbrush, sodium lauryl sulphate free toothpaste and an alcohol-free mouthwash using botanical oils, which kill and control bacteria.
Health issues such as periodontal disease and heart disease are wildly prevalent in western society, however they can be prevented. By looking after your overall health more attentively through controlling stress and diet and minimising damaging factors such as smoking and poor oral health routines you can easily enjoy a high standard of overall health and wellbeing.