Your Heart and Your Smile
Heartwarming stories often make us smile – but there’s also a scientific connection between your grin and your ticker.
Recent studies have shown people with advanced or chronic gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart disease. And this connection matters for most of us, especially as we get older:
- 47.2% of adults 30 and older and 70.1% 65 and older have some form of gum disease.1
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.2
It remains unclear exactly how oral health influences heart health, but there are a couple of different theories:
- Bacteria from the gum infection can travel through the bloodstream and spread to other areas of the body.
- Long-term chronic inflammation from issues such as gum disease can negatively influence tissues and organs elsewhere in the body, including the heart.
Regardless of what the connection is, there’s evidence that problems such as gum disease and tooth loss are linked to higher rates of heart problems. This means that good oral health may help reduce your risk for these issues.
Other factors that contribute to heart health
Oral health is just one of many factors that contribute to the development of heart disease. Other factors that increase risk include:
- Physical inactivity: To promote cardiovascular fitness, the American Heart Association recommends 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three to four times per week. Activities such as brisk walking, running, swimming, and biking are great ways to improve heart health.
- Poor nutrition: For a heart-healthy diet, you should limit fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, and salt. Instead, reach for leafy green vegetables and whole grains for fiber, as well as lean protein options like fish, chicken, and turkey.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are more prone to high blood pressure, which increases risk of heart disease.
- Obesity: Being above a healthy weight can directly lead to cardiovascular issues, but it also contributes to other problems that increase the risk for heart disease. That includes poor sleep, diabetes, and hypertension.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking (defined as more than two drinks per day for men and more than one per day for women) is linked to high blood pressure, heart failure, and other heart disorders.
- Smoking: Any amount of smoking, even occasional smoking, can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Nearly half of all adults have some form of cardiovascular disease.3
Brush and floss for a strong heart and smile
To reduce mouth bacteria and inflammation, you’ll need the right daily oral health routine. Make sure to brush twice a day for two minutes each time using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, and to floss daily. Also, remember to brush with the right technique. Reach the entire surface of each tooth and brush at a 45-degree angle with bristles angled toward the gumline.
Tell your dentist if you have heart disease
Always attend your regular preventive dentist appointments, during which your dentist will look for any signs of gum disease or other problems.
Detecting – and correcting – gum disease early is important for your oral health, but also because reducing inflammation is linked to many overall health benefits. It can help you prevent heart disease, make diabetes more manageable, and even support a healthy pregnancy.
While you’re there, be sure to mention if you have heart disease and provide a list of any medicines you’re taking. They can let you know if the medications have side effects related to oral health (dry mouth, for example) and provide advice. It also ensures that your dentist won’t prescribe medication that reacts poorly with prescriptions from other health professionals.
You’re in control of your oral health
Some factors that contribute to heart disease are out of your control, but you can take charge of your teeth and gums. Keep your smile feeling fresh – your heart will thank you later!
1 Periodontal disease. (2013, July 10) from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html
2 Heart disease facts. (2023, May 25) from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
3 American Heart Association News Cardiovascular diseases affect nearly half of American adults, statistics show. (2019, January 31) from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/01/31/cardiovascular-diseases-affect-nearly-half-of-american-adults-statistics-show