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Your heart and mouth: Ensure a healthy connection

 

Keeping your heart healthy may depend on how much attention you pay to your oral hygiene.

Numerous studies show a link between poor oral health and an increased risk of heart disease, including results from a National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHNE) Survey on blood pressure control, published in the journal Hypertension. In fact, people with periodontal (gum) disease are also 50% more likely to have a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.

 

 

Scientific research hasn't proven a cause-effect relationship. This means there's no conclusive evidence that neglecting your oral health will lead to heart disease, or that treating gum disease will reduce your risk of heart disease. However, a study published in the Journal of Dental Research showed that almost half (47.2%) of adults ages 30 and over in the U.S. have periodontal disease.

Similarly prevalent, approximately 47% of adults have one of the risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking) for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gum disease and heart disease also can share risk factors, such as smoking, according to a 2018 research paper published by Harvard Medical School.

How gum disease develops

When your mouth isn't cleaned properly, bacteria causes a sticky buildup on teeth (known as plaque) and infects surrounding tissues. This leads gums to become red, swollen and tender. You may have gum disease without realizing it.

How heart disease develops

Heart disease is the nation's leading cause of death. It involves the narrowing or blocking of blood vessels, which can then lead to chest pain, heart attack or stroke. While your dental plan may offer expanded coverage (such as additonal cleanings) for people with this condition, heart disease is mostly preventable with healthy choices, such as eating less salt and exercising regularly.

Bacteria: the invasive link

Bacteria is a link between gum disease and heart disease. Poor oral health heightens the risk of bacterial infection. According to researchers at the University of Bristol, bacteria from your mouth can spread to your heart and the rest of your body through your bloodstream, causing inflammation in your blood vessels.

 

Whether or not there’s a direct link between the health of your mouth and your heart, why take a chance? By protecting yourself against gum disease and tooth decay, and avoiding smoking, you can also take care of your heart.

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