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Is Dental Hygiene related to heart disease?

We all have heard a famous proverb in Africa “The teeth are smiling but is the heart?”. It is long estimated that the teeth somehow have a close relation to the heart not only emotionally but also physiologically. In this article, we shall discuss in detail whether the proverb is true.

How common are Poor dental hygiene and periodontitis?

Periodontitis (gum disease and disease of teeth apparatus) is a common condition in all parts of the world and is a largely preventable disease. It is a highly prevalent non-communicable disease and is the sixth most common human disease affecting almost 11% of people around the world.

How do I know If I have gum disease?

The following are the signs of gum disease and indicators of poor dental hygiene:

  1. Gums are swollen and red.
  2. Gums bleeding easily (eg, bleeding even when brushing teeth).
  3. Teeth appear longer.
  4. Loose teeth.
  5. Space between teeth is increasing or teeth are drifting from each other.
  6. Tartar (hard calcified deposits coating the teeth)
  7. Theories relating dental hygiene to heart disease:

There are a lot of theories explaining how poor dental hygiene (gum hygiene) can relate to heart disease. Here we learn about two of the “hit theories”: A popular theory mentions that poor hygiene of teeth and gums provides a favorable ground for the bacteria to grow and cause gingivitis (infection of gums) and periodontitis (infection of teeth apparatus). These bacteria after harboring in the gums and teeth can then travel along blood vessels to any part of the body and especially to the Heart. From the research, bacteria commonly found in the mouth have been found within the blood vessels which are diseased with atherosclerosis.
Whereas there is another theory that says that there is no direct connection between dental hygiene and heart disease. It might be due to smoking (a third party) which causes both gum disease and heart disease. This theory is further backed up by the fact that people having no health insurance or who do not take proper care of their overall health have both poor dental hygiene and heart disease.

What do the science and the research say about dental hygiene and heart disease?

American Heart Association in 2012 concluded that poor oral hygiene is not a primary cause of heart disease. Although this conclusion was made after reviewing available scientific evidence there are plenty of other researches that say otherwise. Many scientific studies relate gum disease (periodontitis) with an increased risk of heart disease, especially if you have artificial heart valves.
From research, it is well established that poor dental hygiene is a major cause of the high level of inflammation as well as poor diet quality. These factors contribute significantly to disability, diabetes, pneumonia, and finally to cardiovascular mortality.

I might have compromised my dental hygiene What should I do next to protect my heart?

You should first visit a dentist so that after a detailed examination of your oral cavity, you can get all the required information and treatment for your gums and teeth. There might be other risk factors for your heart disease and if those are there then the risk of the heart disease simply multiplies (synergistic effect). You should also follow these simple rules to protect the heart:
You should decrease other risk factors for your heart problems like, avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining body weight, drinking plenty of water, etc.
You should also check for high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cholesterol levels and have treatment accordingly.

How can I maintain Dental Hygiene?

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes (but not more than twice daily and not for more than 4 minutes).
  2. Brush your teeth properly- move the brush in a gentle and circular manner.
  3. Brush your tongue gently.
  4. Fluoride toothpaste is better.
  5. Flossing once a day.
  6. Use mouthwash as an adjunct, especially when brushing and flossing is difficult (like in children and older people).
  7. Drink water after every meal.
  8. Avoid ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, instead eat crunchy and fresh fruits and veggies.
  9. Pay a visit to your dentist not less than twice a year.
  10. Avoid acidic and sugary foods.

Take Home Message

It does not matter what science or literature or studies say, it is a matter of common sense that “Hygiene is two third of health”. Maintaining hygiene of your mouth may or may not affect the health of your heart but it is always a good idea to keep your gums, teeth, and mouth healthy. Brushing teeth twice daily, flossing teeth daily and regular dental checkups and cleaning will definitely help you smile better from your heart.

Don’t miss your semi annual dental professional cleaning. Request an appointment with our hygienist !

Dr. Rahaf Suede, DDS at Great Lakes Smiles Dental is trusted by many patients in Plymouth and surrounding areas for comprehensive dental care. She is recognized for her high quality dental treatment and patient satisfaction. Contact her now for an appointment Call (734) 459-9360

References:
Kotronia E, Brown H, Papacosta AO, Lennon LT, Weyant RJ, Whincup PH, Wannamethee SG, Ramsay SE. Oral health and all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory mortality in older people in the UK and USA. Scientific Reports. 2021 Aug 12;11(1):1-0.
DeStefano F, Anda RF, Kahn HS, Williamson DF, Russell CM. Dental disease and risk of coronary heart disease and mortality. British Medical Journal. 1993 Mar 13;306(6879):688-91.
Sanz M, Del Castillo AM, Jepsen S, Gonzalez-Juanatey JR, D’Aiuto F, Bouchard P, Chapple I, Dietrich T, Gotsman I, Graziani F, Herrera D. Periodontitis and cardiovascular diseases: Consensus report. Journal of clinical periodontology. 2020 Mar 1;47(3):268-88.