We talk a lot about how heart health isn’t an island, how many lifestyle and health choices as well as genetic predispositions work together to increase or decrease your risk of heart disease and heart attack. But what about other pieces of the health puzzle? It’s been discussed, for years, that oral health might have an impact on cardiac health, and we hear questions about that connection all the time. So let’s take a closer look.
Oral Health and Your Heart
Taking care of your teeth is important, but it has yet to be proven as a way to definitively prevent against heart disease. On the flip side, it also hasn’t been proven as a cause of heart disease. That being said, there is evidence, though not enough to say conclusively, that oral health may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, tooth loss patterns can be connected to coronary artery disease, and poor dental health does increase the risk of bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can in turn impact the health of your heart valves. Another notable connection is that between poor oral health and patients with diabetes, who are at much higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
There is no proven link between the two, but that doesn’t mean you should approach either part of your health with any less diligence or take into account the interconnectedness of the whole body and all of its systems. And yes, that includes dental and cardiovascular.
Preventing Heart Disease Holistically
Just because the two aren’t critically linked doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for your body holistically. Think of it as a rising tide lifting all boats situation. Making better health choices across the board helps increase your overall sense of wellbeing and lowers your risk for many diseases, heart diseases included. When it comes to holistically tackling your risk factors, knowing what those risk factors are is most important. Ask your doctor about proven ways to reduce your risk, and take that as another piece of the puzzle to consider. When it comes to caring for your oral health alongside your cardiovascular health, listen to your dentist! Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and don’t miss those regular checkups and cleanings. Just like you should never miss your annual physical with your primary care provider, you should never miss your annual or semi-annual dental appointments, either.
If you’re worried about your risk of heart disease, discuss symptoms or hereditary risk with your doctor or a cardiologist at your next visit.