If you are like most people, you’re probably surprised to learn that brushing your teeth may have something to do with a healthy heart.
However, the idea isn’t so far-fetched. All the body’s systems are interconnected and work together for optimal functioning. If you’re having problems in one area of your body, it’s likely that other systems are suffering, too.
What Research Shows Us:
According to the latest scientific research, there is a correlation between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Medical investigations leading to these observations involved comparing people with moderate to advanced levels of gum disease and those with healthy gums. The results showed that a person with gum disease has twice the chance of having poor heart health than a person without it.
To shed more light on the matter, some medical researchers have investigated the connection between tooth loss and heart disease. An example is a 2017 study by the National Center of Biotechnology that investigated over 800,000 participants of Asian and Caucasian origin. The statistical results showed a significant connection between tooth loss and cardiovascular disorder. Specifically, for every two teeth lost, a person was at a 3% higher risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. The results in this study are consistent with earlier research linking tooth loss with a high risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women.
It’s not just the heart. Proper care of your teeth can also boost your blood pressure and sugar levels. Doctors recommend that people living with diabetes can profit from improved dental care or treating periodontal diseases in time.
Currently, it’s not clear how poor oral health predisposes one to higher risks of developing heart disease. However, various theories explain the reasons behind the connection.
Theories Explaining the Connection Between Teeth and Heart Health
Medical researchers have come up with theories touching on bacteria and the immune system’s response to infection. But some believe that economic reasons could be a contributing factor. For instance, they argue that lack of medical coverage may hinder someone from getting the recommended preventive care or from treating periodontal disease in good time. If left untreated, microorganisms causing gum disease will spread to other areas of the body, including the heart, and cause problems.
Here’s a look at key theories that seem to answer how teeth are connected to heart health:
One reason poor oral hygiene or having a dental disease can lead to heart health issues has something to do with the bacteria involved. A dirty or sick mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. If one doesn’t brush their teeth, bacteria can build up and cause periodontal disease. Now, an ailment such as gum disease and tooth decay that’s not treated in good time is risky. It makes it easy for the bacteria causing inflammation to infect other body systems, including the blood vessels.
To support this theory, medical investigations have found a couple of species of gram-negative anaerobic bacteria in the cholesterol buildup found on clogged arteries of people with heart disease. Gram-negative anaerobic bacteria, e.g. gingivitis, is the pathogen associated with tooth-related diseases.
2. Chronic Inflammation
Another theory predicts that heart disease could result from inflammation. Naturally, the body’s immune system responds to any form of infection or injury through inflammation. So when bacteria responsible for periodontal disease travel to the bloodstream and cause infection, it triggers inflammation and other damage to the blood vessels. Blood vessel inflammation and damage may occur anywhere around the body, including the brain and heart. Such might cause tiny blood clots, trigger a heart attack, and in severe cases, cause stroke.
3. Artery Calcification Due to a Lack of Vitamin K-2
Another theory attributes the connection between teeth and heart health to artery calcification. Arterial calcification can occur when the body doesn’t get enough vitamin K-2. This is because vitamin K-2 aids the proper distribution of calcium throughout the body. Therefore, lack of or insufficient vitamin K-2 in the body causes the poor distribution of calcium. In such cases, calcium that’s supposed to deposit on the bones and teeth goes to the wrong places. If calcium deposits on the arteries this is called arterial calcification. This condition causes hardening and narrowing of arteries leading to heart disease.
Similarly, since vitamin K-2 calcium distributes unequally in the body, the teeth are likely to get insufficient amounts of the mineral. Without enough calcium, one will have weak teeth and be at higher risk of tooth decay, osteoporosis, and other tooth-related problems.
From this theory, imbalanced calcium levels in the body can cause periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, among other issues.
Can Your Teeth Affect Your Heart?
Going by the above scientific research and theories, it’s unsafe to leave a gum condition such as gingivitis and periodontitis untreated. Poor oral hygiene risks your heart health too. That’s because buildup on your teeth and mouth provides a breeding environment for germs and disease-causing bacteria. The bacteria not only infect your teeth but can possibly travel to your bloodstream causing inflammation.
But you don’t have to risk your teeth and heart. You can avoid diseases by practicing proper dental hygiene to keep harmful bacteria at bay. It’s also helpful to conduct regular dental exams and check-ups so that you can detect issues in good time. Make sure you manage gum issues properly and get treatment before the bacteria can affect other parts of the body.