Research shows link between oral health and heart health

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

We all know we’re supposed to brush our teeth to keep our mouths healthy. New research shows that brushing your teeth may actually keep your heart healthy too.

Researchers are stopping short of saying that taking care of your teeth will prevent heart disease, but studies show that people with gum disease may be twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Cardiovascular disease remains this country’s top killer. The risk factors are the usual suspects: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, and genetics.

Naples-based cardiologist Dr. George Yiachos, with Physicians Regional Medical Group, said he tells his patients there’s an additional factor that may be weighing down their hearts.

“One of the things I talk about is how ongoing chronic low-grade inflammation from dental problems could be an actual trigger for cardiovascular and even cerebrovascular disease,” Yiachos said.

Cavities, root canals, periodontal disease, a history of losing teeth, all point to a higher risk.

Studies show gum disease creates a portal for bacteria to enter the body.

Yiachos explains, “It’s been shown that the bacteria that tend to grow in the teeth have been found in vascular disease when they when they’ve had the opportunity to biopsy plaques and look at them, they’ll actually find bacteria that usually are only found in the mouth. So there’s been a direct connection bit behind what’s happening with gingivitis infections and periodontal disease and vascular disease.”

The key to good oral health is simple: clean your teeth at least twice a day. Floss daily and schedule regular dental checkups. Doing this, doctors believe may help remove heart disease as the top cause of death.

“We treat cholesterol as we treat blood pressures,” Yiachos added. “But why isn’t the death rate falling down? Why isn’t it going down further, it’s rather a plateau and it could be because we’re missing opportunities to treat chronic low-grade inflammation which is probably the real root cause of a lot of vascular disorders.”

Expanding on this concept a bit further, there is also reason to believe there’s a connection between diabetes and dental health, one more reason to brush up.

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