oral health and heart disease

Wonder why your dentist always emphasizes taking good care of your oral hygiene?

Majority of the people in today’s world live with specific periodontal or gum disease which often goes undiagnosed. Most of the times it happens as a result of patient negligence.

A recent study on U.S nationals recorded 757 incident cases of CHD, including fatal and non-fatal myocardial infarction and sudden death, in six years of follow-up among men who reported pre-existing periodontal disease. (1)

Avoiding your dentist can cost you your life. A health check-up at your physician rarely focuses on oral health. It is always good to keep a check on your oral hygiene practice and take good care of your oral cavity.

Let’s dive into the article to get an insight into the relationship between oral health and heart disease, the alarming signs and symptoms and understand the importance of preventive measures to stay healthy.

What is the relation between oral health and heart disease?

Poor oral health is always a predictor of an ongoing or future heart disease. People with poor oral health forms a prime base for oral bacteria to reside. These bacteria spread from the mouth into various parts of the body through the bloodstream.

The heart being the collector of blood accumulates a majority of the bacteria in its valves and the blood vessels, thus leading to a severe risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Inflammation of blood vessels is caused to an elevation in the c-reactive protein which is a mechanism initiated by the bacteria. This situation worsens when a patient is already suffering from a particular type of heart disease.

Patients who do not have any gum disease but lack proper oral hygiene practice may start accumulating plaque which becomes the home for bacteria over time. It can increase the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

What type of heart diseases require special attention?

Endocarditis

Endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the innermost lining of the heart. Patient must take care to practice good oral hygiene as a routine.

Those at high risk of developing bacterial endocarditis will reasonably benefit from taking preventive antibiotics before specific procedures.

All patients scheduled for valve surgery should have excellent oral hygiene and see their dentist before surgery. Unhealthy teeth are the prime source of bacteria that can cause endocarditis.

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Antihypertensive medicines can cause dry mouth. They may cause swelling of the gum tissues leading to problems with chewing.

In this case, a dentist will give you detailed instruction on maintaining good oral hygiene. A small procedure called gingivectomy can be done to remove excess gum tissue.

Heart attack (myocardial infarction)

It is recommended to wait for a minimum of six months after a heart attack if you are planning to undergo any extensive dental treatment. However, you can have a dental cleaning.

It is always good to take a piece of advice from your dentist if you are taking anticoagulants (blood-thinning drugs). These medications can result in excessive bleeding during oral surgery procedures.

Patients suffering from a cardiovascular disease commonly take an antiplatelet medication called clopidogrel (Plavix). Don’t stop taking Plavix without talking to your cardiologist and dentist.

Angina

Patients with angina may experience gum overgrowth. In some instances, gingivectomy might be required. Although patients with stable angina can usually undergo dental treatment.

However, patients with accelerating or unstable angina should have their heart evaluated by their cardiologist before having any dental procedure.

Stroke

Anti-coagulants could cause excessive bleeding during oral surgery. If a stroke has resulted in an inability to produce an adequate amount of saliva, a dentist can recommend the use of artificial saliva to supplement the quantity of saliva in the mouth. 

If a stroke has affected the face, tongue or dominant arm, it is recommended to use fluoride gels. Modified brushing and flossing techniques will help you maintain good oral hygiene.

Warning Signs

  • Red, swollen gums that are sore to touch
  • Bleeding while eating, brushing or flossing
  • Formation of pus or other signs of infection around the gums and teeth
  • Receding Gums
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Loosening of teeth

Who is at risk?

Patients with chronic gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease have the highest risk for heart disease caused by poor oral health.

Bacteria associated with infection of the gum enter the bloodstream. They attach to the blood vessels and increase your risk to cardiovascular disease.

A study done to identify the bacteria present in patients with coronary artery disease revealed the presence of 31 different types of oral microbes in the blood vessel. (2)

Preventive Measure

  • Good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are the best way to protect yourself against the development of gum disease.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day has proven to increase gum health. Floss on a daily basis and visit your dentist for regular professional cleanings.
  • Inform your dentist if you have heart disease and tell about the medicines you take.
  • If you take blood thinners, talk to your dentist and physician before your appointment.
  • Take an antibiotic before your dental appointment, if prescribed by your dentist or physician.

Over to you

Paying attention to your dental health and hygiene will pay you back with more than a gleaming, healthy smile and manageable dental bills. It will also keep your heart healthy.

Visit your physician and your dentist for a thorough check-up. Your health is your responsibility.

It is always good to be proactive about your oral health, and you can protect yourself from developing even a small connection between your oral health and heart disease.

Maintain a healthy, clean and beautiful smile throughout your life. Stay informed and live a healthy life.