Almost 100 years ago, some doctors and dental professionals believed the connection between a healthy heart and healthy teeth. They believed it so much they that pulling teeth might prevent heart attacks. Luckily, that belief was disproved fairly rapidly. But today we know gum disease can certainly be a factor in and a predictor of heart disease.
The causal relationship, if any, has not yet been conclusively determined. But according to the American Heart Association, there is undeniable evidence that the heart and blood vessels share risk factors with the mouth and gums. It is accepted that Periodontal disease may be an early warning system for inflammation, signaling diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and kidney disease. Age, smoking and obesity all commonly lead to problems for both oral health and heart health.
The Link is Real
Just as the “toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, and the thigh bone connected to the hip bone,” gum disease and heart disease might be more than casually connected.
The facts are:
- There is a direct link between gum disease and blocked leg arteries.
- Bacteria, similar in both the mouth and the arteries, are responsible for the plaque buildup that result in both gingivitis and atherosclerosis.
- Elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood are found in individuals with moderate to severe gum disease and in tests of those at risk of heart attack. Those CRP levels signal widespread inflammation, and are usually associated with RA flare-ups and other immune system disorders, but are also indicative of arterial disease.
- The tie between gum disease and stroke is less clear.
A recent consensus report, prepared by cardiologists and periodontal experts and published simultaneously in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology, notes that the evidence garnered from more than 100 studies and scholarly papers is convincing enough that heart specialists and periodontists should work together to explain the interconnections to patients.
What Does It Mean for You?
The real message is simple: The link between oral health and overall wellness is too strong to ignore. The Mayo Clinic has long been an advocate of aggressive oral hygiene as a way to protect the rest of the body. Bacteria and inflammation that characterize periodontitis might also affect, be affected by, or contribute to other conditions and diseases, including endocarditis, premature birth or low birth weight, HIV/Aids, osteoporitis and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.Does it really matter which came first? We don’t think so. Here at Salcetti & Associates, we are just as concerned about your overall well being as we are committed to helping you maintain healthy teeth and gums.
The Way Forward
Do you have questions about what your individual risks might be? If you visit your primary dentist on a regular basis, schedule at least an annual physical with a primary care physician, take reasonable care of your body in terms of exercise, diet and nutrition and look on the bright side of life, you are ‘doing it right.’
While it still difficult to say for certain that neglecting your teeth and gums can lead to a heart attack, there is enough evidence that they sometimes go hand in hand to make you take it seriously.
Certainly, if you notice any symptoms, be sure to mention them to both your doctor and your dental or periodontal professional. We’ll take it from there to help you coordinate the care of both your heart and your mouth.
Now, that’s something to SMILE about!