Teeth Problems and Heart Disease

Maybe you’ve heard that clean teeth promote heart health? And asked: what does dental health have to do with heart disease? In fact gum infections can raise your heart disease risk.

Did you also know that many of deaths from a heart disease brought on by bad oral health; and sometimes by dental treatment?

The recent studies found a strong link between gum disease and narrowing of the arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis), which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Gum Disease

Teeth are covered by sticky plaque, made up of food, bacteria and bacterial waste products. If plaque is left on the teeth the gums become irritated and may bleed when you brush. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

If gum disease is not treated, the gums may swell, forming a little pocket around the tooth. Plaque collects in this and cannot be removed by a toothbrush. When plaque is left on the teeth it may harden to form tartar (calculus).

As time goes on the pockets get deeper, trap even more plaque and tartar and may become infected. Over time gingivitis can develop into chronic (long term) periodontitis, in which the jaw bone can become infected and damaged, causing teeth to loosen or fall out.

Also researchers found diseased gums released significantly higher levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components, such as endotoxins, into the bloodstream in patients with severe periodontal disease compared to healthy patients. As a result, these harmful bacterial components in the blood could travel to other organs in the body, such as the heart, and cause harm.

The disease is called subacute bacterial endocarditis, a severe infection of the heart lining. In this condition bacteria collect at a previously-damaged site within the heart. The prior damage can be from rheumatic fever, congenital defects, and other causes. Frequently, victims are unaware of this pre-existing damage.

Bacteria enter the body through a failure of natural defensive barriers. One such barrier is skin. Another is the tooth structure. These surfaces are not, themselves, vulnerable to germs; and they prevent germs from access to inner tissues which have no natural immunity, no defense.

Researchers studied 67 patients of whom 42 were diagnosed with moderate to severe periodontitis and the remaining 25 patients were healthy individuals who had never received periodontal treatment. Blood samples were taken before and after patients lightly chewed chewing gum 50 times on each side of their jaw.

Researchers found the number of patients with endotoxemia rose from six percent before chewing to 24 percent after chewing. Additionally, those with severe periodontal disease had approximately four times more harmful bacterial products in their blood than those with moderate or no periodontal disease.

Heart Disease

Atherosclerosis is when the arteries become narrow and damaged. It happens when the arteries are clogged up with fatty deposits or the walls of the arteries become inflamed.

This narrowing can happen in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, depriving it of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to work normally. When the blood flow through an artery is stopped, a heart attack can occur.

Arteries supplying blood to the brain can also be affected by atherosclerosis. If a blood clot becomes lodged in a narrowed artery, blood flow to part of the brain may be stopped. This is called a stroke.

The researchers suggest that the results mean that people who have gum disease may be at a greater risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Although the study suggests a link between gum disease and heart disease, it does not prove that gum disease actually causes heart disease.

But anywhere to avoid heart gum disease (and maybe heart disease), you need regular dental checkups so that any gum disease can be identified and treated promptly. When infections are found, the treatment is deep cleaning of the gums often followed by local antibiotics to eliminate bacteria. And, of course, it is vital to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to avoid the buildup of small amounts of food that attract and nourish bacteria. You might also ask your dentist about electric toothbrushes that have been clinically shown to treat gingivitis more effectively than regular tooth brushes.

Incidentally, another recent study found that people who brush their teeth after every meal tend to remain slimmer than those who don’t brush as often. Japanese researchers discovered this effect when they compared the lifestyle habits of nearly 14,000 people whose average age was the mid-forties. They concluded that tooth brushing is a good health habit that could play a role in preventing obesity. The study was published in the Journal of the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity.

As you know all things in our organism are bound up and it’s not astonishing that gum disease can cause heart problems. Take care of your teeth and gums, take care of your heart.