February is National Heart Month, and in honor of the Center For Disease Control’s (CDC) quasi-holiday, the doctors and health care workers at Infinite Dental Wellness decided to tackle the long-debated question: What is the link, if any, between poor dental health and heart disease? Can having bad dental hygiene and/or gingivitis really cause heart disease, or is the relationship more correlative – people with poor dental health also have a high risk for heart disease, but one affliction doesn’t necessarily influence the other?
Doctors, What Is Your Conclusion?
Dr. Kiraj: Between 2006 and 2009, leading experts in the fields of periodontology (the study of the teeth and their support structures, i.e. the gums) and cardiology (the study of the heart) developed a consensus report about the connection between periodontal health and cardiovascular health based on over 120 medical studies. After researching thousands of statistics and cases involving heart attack and stroke victims (who also suffered from gum disease), these experts determined that the relationship between heart disease and gum disease had to be causal; that is, one directly caused the other.
Dr. Muradyan: In the years since 2009, however, modern medicine has scrutinized this thesis and found no definitive evidence that gum disease can actually cause heart disease. It’s true that people with poor dental health also tend to suffer from poor heart health, but perhaps people with good dental hygiene simply take better care of themselves. In other words, people who brush and floss and see the dentist regularly are the same people who exercise and eat right and get plenty of sleep at night.
Dr. Kiraj: The strongest link between the two types of diseases, periodontal and cardiovascular, is that both share high levels of inflammation. In heart disease, the buildup of plaque in a person’s arteries is actually an inflammatory process. Gum disease also has the same component of inflammation. In the first stages of Gingivitis, gums become inflamed and bacteria can cause serious damage to the mouth.
How Do I Know If I’m At Risk?
Dr. Muradyan: Although more conclusive evidence is needed to state, with any certainty, that dental health directly affects heart health, the appearance of gum disease may be indicative of a larger overall health problem; the same inflammation you are experiencing in your gums may also be weakening your heart and the blood vessels leading to your brain. To minimize your risk of both periodontal and cardiovascular disease, patients should focus on achieving a healthy lifestyle – exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, and quitting smoke and chewing tobacco is a great start to improving total body wellness.
Do you have questions about your dental health? Call for an appointment to speak with Dr. Kiraj or Dr. Muradyan today!