The health of the mouth is connected to your overall health, including the heart. However, numerous scientific studies fail to prove that gum disease or other oral health issues cause heart disease.
Here we explain the link between the mouth and the body. Why do patients who have oral health problems (such as gum disease) often have problems with overall health (including heart disease)?
Can you prevent heart disease by taking good care of your teeth? Or can you stop gum disease by keeping your heart and body in good shape?
Scientific Research on Oral Health Link to General Health
Claims over the past decade that oral problems caused heart problems led the American Heart Association (AMA) to study the correlation. Reports in over 190 journals from 1989 to 2011 explained the debate among health professionals on the relationship between the mouth and the heart.
A task force of dental, infectious disease, cardiology, and epidemiology experts came together to evaluate the evidence for an association (or causality) of Periodontal Disease (PD) and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease (ASVD).
The AMA expressed concern that both Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease occur at high rates in America’s population. Also concerning: the reports of the relationship between the diseases have conflicting results on how different the diseases relate to each other.
Understandably, the relation between Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease is of great public health importance due to their high prevalence in this country. Doctors need correct information in order to best help patients deal with diseases of the heart and the mouth.
Thus, to properly understand how to fight heart and oral diseases the task force evaluated scientific research and reached a consensus about how oral problems relate to heart problems.
The American Heart Association: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.
Here we summarize the conclusion of the American Heart Association study of scientific data which links heart and oral health:
- Scientific studies do not prove that Periodontal Disease is a cause of Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease.
- Studies do not confirm that periodontal interventions prevent heart disease or stroke or change the course of ASVD.
- Periodontal and Cardiovascular diseases share multiple risk factors that promote disease, including tobacco use, Diabetes, and age.
- No proof that reducing inflammation using Periodontal Therapy changes markers for heart inflammation.
The study points to gaps in our scientific understanding of the relationship of oral health and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease. Accordingly, research will continue on whether or not promoting gum health will help the heart.
Other Studies on Periodontal-Heart Relationship
- American College of Cardiology: Periodontal Health and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Association or Causation?
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America
- American Dental Association: https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)62727-6/fulltext
FAQ: Scientific Studies: Relationship – Heart Health & Oral Health
Science does not prove that Oral Health problems cause Cardiovascular problems. Oral health diseases and heart problems are of great concern. Both should be treated to maintain good overall health.
There is no scientific proof that treatment for Gum Disease leads to improved Heart Health. However, improving oral health and heart health are important to general health of the body.
Studies firmly establish an association between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Disease; however, there is no proof that gum disease if a risk factor for poor heart health.
The American Heart Association analysis of numerous studies do not prove causation of gum disease to heart disease. But it is important to treat both gum and heart disease to achieve good overall health.
What Really is the Link Between Heart Disease and Gum Disease?
Evidence from multiple scientific studies point to the existence of oral disease and other health problems in the same patients. Current data does not support recommending periodontal treatment for the prevention of cardiac disease.
But studies on the exact link between physical and oral health will continue as a way to control growing disease rates. Currently, dentists and physicians agree that improving oral (dental) care and general health (medical) care will result in overall improved health.
Health education to encourage better oral health should be considered as part of current healthy lifestyle messages designed to reduce the increasing health burden of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18452645
As dental, public health, and medical researchers work together, their research points to a holistic approach to health care. Maintaining good physical and oral health benefits patients by improving overall health.
Fighting oral disease along with heart related diseases will benefit patients health condition. Thus we will see decreased rates of diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. This is important to all of us.
Until additional research proves a more direct link, we can know that gum disease and heart disease share some common risk factors. Smoking, poor diet, being overweight, not managing diabetes—these problems put patients at risk for both heart and gum problems.
Dr. Cranford & Manning Kimmel: WRHI Oral Health Interview
Preventing Heart and Gum Disease
Lifestyle changes and prevention measures that help avoid mouth problems will also prevent problems with the heart.
Here are preventive measures that help avoid gum and heart disease:
Eat Healthy Foods
Foods that lead to healthy teeth also encourage good heart health. Eat unprocessed foods, fruits, and vegetables. Also reduce carbohydrate intake.
Avoid foods high in sugar and high acid foods. These lead to tooth decay and elevated blood sugar levels (which damage teeth and heart). Especially avoid high sugar drinks, which have empty calories. These contribute to inflammation in the body and the mouth.
Do not Smoke
Smoking is dangerous to the mouth and to general health. Quitting smoking is an instant way to improve overall health.
Smokers are much more likely to develop gum and heart disease than non smokers. In addition, gum disease is harder to heal for smokers.
Take Care of Yourself
Create habits of good oral and health care:
- Brush and floss at least twice per day
- Maintain regular exercise program
- Be aware of changes in both your oral or general health
- Address health problems as soon as you identify them
Visit Health Professionals
The best way to keep a close control over oral and general health is to visit your physician and dentist on a regular basis. They can help stop or control many diseases with early detection.
Regular checkups will help detect many diseases in addition to cardiovascular disease: cancer (including oral cancer), gum disease, diabetes.
The Mouth is Doorway to Body
Dentists have a unique perspective on the relationship between oral health and general health. We often see patients twice yearly over many years. In addition, we evaluate changes in health through frequent medical history reviews.
A patient’s oral health often indicates what is going on in the rest of our body.
There are multiple diseases that manifest by signs in the mouth:
Change in Oral Self Care
A change in the oral health care can indicate depression, Alzheimers, and Parkinson’s Disease.
These diseases make the patient unwilling to or unable to properly brush his teeth. Thus dentists are alarmed when we see a drastic decline in the condition of a patient’s mouth.
Low Salivary Flow, Dry Mouth
Sjogren’s Syndrome (an autoimmune disease) exhibits with lower salivary flow, dry mouth, and loss of elasticity in the oral soft tissues.
Understandably, identifying this disease helps doctors treat the disease before it affects joints, blood vessels, and other body parts.
Diabetes shows through increased Periodontal Disease and inflammation. Understandably, it is important for Diabetics to keep close check on oral health to avoid gum disease and related teeth loss.
Dental radiographs sometimes detect arterial plaques on the carotid arteries. These are the arteries that bring blood to the brain and face. Your dentist will refer you to a physician if she sees problems on your panoramic radiograph.
Fungal infections are of great concern in dentistry. Patients may have infections that are superficial; or fungal infections may indicate a more serious systemic illness.
Your dentist will check for oral cancer at each visit during your oral exam. The first indication of cancer is usually too small for the patient to feel or see in his mouth.
She will recommend advanced testing for patients if she sees an area that she is suspicious may be cancerous. Patients who get treatment in time can avoid the trauma of advanced oral cancer.
Helping oral cancer patients is a very rewarding part of caring for our patients.
We also work with patients who are undergoing other cancer treatments. Radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple drugs lead to dryness and discomfort in the mouth. Understandably, cancer patients ask us to help make their mouth feel better during this hard time.
We meet with patients before they begin treatment to implement a protocol to increase salivary flow and reduce decay caused by treating cancer. Physicians often send patients in for a thorough oral examination before they start radiation and chemotherapy.
Dentist’s Perspective on Health
Many years of treating dental patients in Rock Hill, South Carolina have given me insight into the connection between the mouth and the body. Oral health is a good place to start when patients begin a plan to improve their health and feel better all over.
My general observation is that people who maintain a healthy mouth, as a whole, are healthier than those who ignore their dental health. And oral health improvement makes a patient feel better. The mouth is a good start to improving overall health.Dr. Bill Cranford, Rock Hill, SC
Understanding how oral health connects to overall health helps us treat patients with a holistic approach.
Our dentists, hygienists, and staff ask these very important questions as they see patients of all ages in our Rock Hill, South Carolina dental office:
- What is your health situation? How do you feel about your oral health and overall health?
- How can we help you look and feel better?
- Will you work with us on a preventive plan to look and feel good in future years? To avoid gum disease and other health problems?
- Can we help you keep your teeth for a lifetime?
Contact our office or leave comments below if you have questions about your oral health and how it relates to your heart or overall health. Call 803-324-7670 or stop by our office at 1721 Ebenezer Road in Rock Hill, SC.
Our dentists would love to help you start a plan to improve your oral health. We can help you look and feel better—which will help your overall health condition.