Oral Health and Heart Disease
Our mouths are home to billions of bacteria. They cause tooth decay, and if they start breeding under your gum-line, they also cause gum disease. But recent evidence has also linked gum disease to heart problems and thickened blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
How Poor Oral Health May Affect Your Cardiovascular System
How can bacteria in your mouth affect your heart health? The exact mechanism has yet to be examined in detail. But scientists who examined arteriosclerotic plaque, a substance found on the inside of the blood vessels of people suffering from clogged arteries found the same bacteria here as those one would expect to find in the mouth.
Because the arteries can’t accommodate the flow of blood properly, blood pressure rises, and this can lead to a heart attack.
There’s also speculation that oral bacteria can harm blood vessels just as they eat away at teeth and gum tissue. Given that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body and yet can be eroded by these bacteria, the idea isn’t a far-fetched one.
There’s concern that our own immune systems’ reaction to oral bacteria that get into the bloodstream could be harmful. Blood clots could result, and as we know, a blood clot reaching the heart can have fatal consequences.
Finally, inflammation has been linked to a great many illnesses including heart disease, and if your mouth is inflamed, it’s possible that it will trigger inflammatory responses elsewhere in the body.
Is There Evidence That Good Oral Health Can Ward Off Heart Disease?
Most experts agree that there’s no way of determining to what degree good oral health can protect you from heart disease, or even if it protects you at all. After, the burden of proof that science places on researchers is a heavy one, and ethical concerns prevent researchers from carrying out studies that could harm human subjects.
Although studies have shown that people who take good care of their teeth are less likely to get heart attacks, it’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect relationship. After all, says the argument, people who look after their oral health may just be a group that takes better care of their overall health. Perhaps they’re more likely to eat healthy foods or more likely to spend time exercising.
What Can We Conclude?
It certainly would be wonderful if we could say that good oral hygiene would definitely reduce your chance of having a heart attack. There’s some evidence pointing to that, but it’s not yet fully conclusive.
Nevertheless, just as we can’t say for sure that a healthy mouth will protect you from heart disease, we also can’t say for sure that it cannot contribute to heart health.
Besides, taking care of our teeth and gums is the sensible thing to do. It certainly won’t harm your heart, and it may help it. But what we do know for sure is that it protects your teeth and gums. And since we only get one set of permanent teeth, it makes a good deal of sense to look after it. As your dentists, we’re here to help you do just that.