Looking at the Heart of Oral Health

February 15, 2019

You may have heard someone in your Dental office say that oral health is linked to overall health. Most individuals treat their mouths as a separate entity from the rest of their body and ignore the fact that what goes on here has a large correlation to many other health issues. Since this month is National Heart Awareness Month we’re focusing on the link to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease. Periodontal disease affects nearly 50% of individuals with over 70% prevalence in adults age 65 and older. So how are these 2 very common diseases related?

Bacteria can cause inflammation in the heart and blood vessels.

Oral bacteria can affect the heart.

We should start by saying there have been no studies that have PROVEN poor oral health causes heart disease. There are studies however that show a strong correlation between the two.  One of the theories typically written about is that of bacteria and how it can affect your heart. As you may know, our mouths contain a lot of bacteria. We can have anywhere between 100-200 or more different strains of bacteria at any given time. This equates to millions or billions of bacteria living in your oral cavity. Many are helpful or harmless, but some are disease causing. This bacteria has been found in blood vessels which causes inflammation, just as they do in our gums.

Not only do the bacteria cause problems if they end up in your heart and blood vessels, but your bodies natural inflammatory response can also cause damage. When you suffer from gingivitis or periodontal disease, your body reacts with its usual inflammatory response. This doesn’t just stop in your mouth though. The inflammatory response is a nonspecific reaction to pathogens, damaged cells and/or toxins that takes place throughout your entire body (you can learn more about the damage it causes here). It is this reaction to oral pathogens that “sets off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain.” (Harvard).

Another correlation between poor oral health and heart disease is smoking. Smoking is a risk factor for both diseases and may present the link between the two. A 2018 study, analyzed data from a million people who had different cardiovascular events and found the following:

Make smart choices to keep you heart and mouth healthy.

Take care of your heart by getting yearly wellness checks!

  1. Accounting for age, a moderate correlation was found between tooth loss and coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease).
  2. After accounting for smoking the correlation largely disappeared.

We could conclude that smoking may very well be the missing piece of the mouth to heart puzzle, but more studies are needed for a definitive answer.

Now whether the correlations are direct or coincidental it seems that these 2 common diseases are linked in some way. The best way to improve your heart health is to try your best to improve your oral health, and we are here to help! Whether you need help for tobacco cessation or a discussion on interdental aids, we will tailor a preventive and treatment plan to help with your dental needs. We strive to stay up to date with the newest research, and will share that with you as more studies are complete on this topic. Our #1 goal is to help you achieve the healthiest smile possible! As always, we thank you for trusting us on your journey to improved oral health!





Mayo Clinic:




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):


Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs



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