Dental health is important for a number of reasons. We want to be able to chew and eat the foods we enjoy and we want to be able to smile with confidence. While those are the most obvious benefits of maintaining good dental health, research in recent years has revealed that the state of our teeth and gums also affects our heart health.
Dental Health and Heart Health Is Linked
For decades, researchers have looked at the high incidences of poor dental health and the equally high incidences of heart disease, wondering if there might be a correlation. As this topic has been studied over the past 20 years, studies have revealed that the two physical conditions are intertwined. It’s even been suggested that a dentist might be able to diagnose a heart problem by looking at a patient’s mouth.
According to Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD. Of Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services, the evidence so far is circumstantial, but he’s quick to add that there’s enough to strongly indicate a link. He says it is hard to establish the idea that poor dental health leads to poor heart health, but the findings are too numerous to be a mere coincidence.
Specifically, the link between dental and heart conditions is thought to be found in a condition called atherosclerosis. Inflammation, such as that found in gum disease, leads to hardening of the arteries, which inhibits blood flow to the heart. A reduced supply of blood to the heart means the individual is at a heightened risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
Additionally, gum disease can provide an entry point for harmful bacteria to get into the blood supply. The mouth is teaming with bacteria, so any opening in the gum line can provide a gateway for that bacteria to get into the blood vessels found in the gums. From there, the bacteria can travel to any part of the body and trigger instances of inflammation.
Can Proper Dental Health Help Prevent Heart Disease?
There are many reasons to be diligent in pursuing proper dental care, but the American Heart Association can’t confirm that good dental health will prevent heart disease. Even so, studies have found that maintaining your teeth and gums in a good condition leads to better overall health. Besides, it can’t hurt to do what you should be doing anyway.
Dentists suggest brushing your teeth a little longer than usual and using dental floss more frequently, particularly after each meal or snack. Regular dental check-ups are equally important. Cleanings can prevent cavities and gum disease from getting a foothold and X-rays can identify hidden problems before they become more severe.
What if you already have severe dental problems and you’re concerned about how they will affect your heart health? By visiting your dentist, you can take steps to correct your problems soon and prevent future complications. In many cases gum disease and cavities can be treated with minimal procedures or medications. According to Nutley Family Denistry, a dental office that specializes in dentures in Nutley, NJ, if you do require dentures your dentist can speak to you about your options and how much your insurance will cover.
There’s no denying the importance of maintaining excellent oral health. Aside from boosting confidence, it can also help us stay healthier in other ways. While the relationship between oral health and heart function is suggestive at this point, doctors and dentists feel the correlation is strong enough to warrant concern. In coming years, there will likely be greater evidence to prove the effect gum disease has on inflammation in the body and heart disease. In the meantime, greater oral care can still lead to greater overall health and a healthier body strengthens resistance against disease and degeneration.