Oral Hygiene Can Affect Heart Health

Most people don't associate oral hygiene and heart health, but good oral care is essential to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Helpful Highlights

  • When oral hygiene is lacking, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through activities such as chewing, brushing teeth, or dental procedures.

  • Poor oral hygiene can have a direct impact on heart health, primarily through its association with periodontal (gum) disease.

  • Periodontal disease affects 68% of seniors (2 in 3) - more than any other population.

  • Dry mouth and lack of routine dental visits are primary factors in the development of periodontal disease.

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The connection

Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by bacteria that accumulate on the teeth and gums, leading to infection and inflammation. Research has shown a strong link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, suggesting that poor oral health may increase the risk of heart problems in several ways.

Periodontal disease causes chronic inflammation in the gums, which can spread throughout the body via the bloodstream. Inflammation plays a key role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Chronic inflammation from periodontal disease may contribute to the inflammation present in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Bacteria associated with periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream through inflamed gum tissue and travel to other parts of the body, including the heart. Once in the bloodstream, these bacteria can contribute to the formation of arterial plaque.

Other complications from inadequate oral care

Poor oral hygiene can also contribute to cardiovascular infections, particularly infective endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or heart valves, typically caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream and attaching to damaged areas of the heart lining or valves. While infective endocarditis can occur due to various factors, including dental procedures, poor oral hygiene and untreated periodontitis are significant risk factors for its development.

Poor oral health has been linked to other systemic health conditions such as diabetes and respiratory infections, which themselves are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. By improving oral hygiene and reducing the burden of oral bacteria, your loved one may also lower their risk of developing these conditions and subsequently reduce their risk of heart disease.

Poor oral hygiene often coexists with other risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle. Addressing oral health issues and practicing good oral hygiene habits may also coincide with adopting other heart-healthy behaviors, leading to overall improvements in cardiovascular health.

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Preventing dry mouth (xerostomia) - a common problem in seniors due to medications, lack of adequate hydration, and slowed saliva production - is an important part of good oral hygiene and there are many products available over-the-counter and by prescription that can help combat it.

Dry mouth accelerates the breakdown of gum tissue, creating more opportunity for bacterial invasion and growth.

Can periodontitis happen with dentures?

Yes. Wherever gum tissue is present, including beneath dentures, it can become inflamed and overgrown with harmful bacteria. Especially when dentures are not well-secured or do not fit properly (too loose, too tight), gum damage and subsequent periodontitis can develop.

With your help to engage in regular brushing, flossing, twice annual dental check-ups, denture upkeep, and prevention of dry mouth, your loved one can maintain good oral health and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and infection.

RESOURCES

American Dental Association (ADA)

American Heart Association (AHA)

Colgate

Harvard Health

Huh, Y., Yoo, J.E., Park, S-H., Han, K., Kim, S.M., Park., H.E., Cho, K.H., Ahn, J-S., Jun, S.H., & Nam, G.E. (2023). Association of dental diseases and oral hygiene care with the risk of heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes: A nationwide cohort study. JAHA, 12(16). DOI

Kotronia, E., Brown, H., Papacosta, A.O., Lennon, L.T., Weyant, R.J., Whincup, P.H., Wannamethee, S.G., & Ramsay, S.E. (2021). Oral health and all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory mortality in older people in the UK and USA. Scientific Reports, 11, 16452. DOI

Penn Medicine

Schmerling, R.H. (2021). Gum disease and the connection to heart disease. Harvard Health. Link

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, dentist, or other qualified clinician.

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