Our dental health is impacted by a variety of factors, including conditions or diseases unique to each of us. However, even though there may be added layers of complication when it comes to managing everything that your body is dealing with, you may still have an opportunity to positively impact its overall state. Your overall physical status can sometimes be partially attributed to how you address and maintain your oral hygiene routine. We’re going to take a look at the connection between cardiac health and dental health throughout this post. When we refer to cardiac health, we are primarily focusing on heart disease.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a term that encompasses a range of conditions that affect your heart, including: blood vessel disease (coronary artery disease), heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), congenital heart defects, heart valve disease, heart infection and disease of the heart muscle. Your symptoms will vary depending upon the type of heart condition you’re enduring. Symptoms may include: chest pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort; shortness of breath; numbness or weakness in your arms or legs; dizziness; swelling; and fatigue. Again, these do not encompass all symptoms associated with heart disease and you should always contact your doctor with any questions or concerns.
What does heart disease have to do with dental health?
According to research from Harvard, people with gum disease (periodontitis), and poor oral health in general, are more prone to be at risk for cardiovascular problems like heart attack and stroke than those with good oral health and hygiene practices.
Here are a few of the theories and ideas that support the connection between cardiovascular disease and poor oral health:
- Bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis & periodontitis may also travel to blood vessels elsewhere in the body where they cause inflammation and damage. This can lead to tiny blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
- Inflammation, the body’s immune response, may set off a domino effect of vascular damage throughout the body, including to the heart and brain.
- The two may be linked when a 3rd factor that affects both is introduced, like smoking.
Additional research purports that if you have gum disease in a moderate or advanced stage, you’re at higher risk for heart disease than someone with healthy gums. And secondly, your oral health can provide doctors with warning signs for a range of diseases and conditions, including those in the heart.
How do I promote the importance of dental health to my loved one living with cardiovascular disease?
As we know, proper dental health and oral care is critical when it comes to promoting your overall health. Here are some dental health steps you can take to help yourself or a family member living with cardiovascular disease:
- Contacting your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings
- Brush twice daily and commit to flossing daily in an effort to prevent the need for extensive & more involved procedures as time goes on
- Try using different types of toothbrushes; you may find that you have more success and interest in maintaining your oral hygiene routine if you use an electric toothbrush versus a manual toothbrush (or the other way around)
- Be observant of any potential mouth pain; this includes bleeding gums and inflammation
If you or a loved one is living with cardiovascular disease, it’s important to know that your dental health still matters. Reach out and contact us at any time with questions or concerns about heart disease and dental health.
For information on our other posts in this series, visit understanding the diabetes & dental health connection and/or understanding the Alzheimer’s & dental health connection.