Here’s why taking care of your oral health may benefit your heart health, too.
From the time you were a child, you probably were told that you should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. That instruction likely came from your dentist (and your parents), but not necessarily your doctor. But did you know that brushing and flossing may do more than just keep your teeth and gums healthy? It may even lower your risk of heart disease.
Although there’s not widespread consensus that there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between oral health and heart health, studies have shown that people who have poor oral health, such as gum disease and/or tooth loss, are more likely to have heart disease. The exact reason for this is not yet known, however.
Here are some explanations as to why people with poor oral health may have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems:
- Oral bacteria. One theory is that poor oral hygiene may cause bacteria from the mouth to get into the blood stream. This can cause inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body, including the heart. Inflammation in the blood vessels surrounding the heart may contribute to heart health issues, including a narrowing of the arteries that may lead to heart attack or stroke. Inflammation may be especially troublesome in people who have heart valve issues.
- Other risk factors. Another reason why there may be a connection between oral health and heart health has to do with other factors that contribute to both conditions. For example, smokers are more likely to experience gum disease and tooth loss. They’re also at an increased risk for heart disease. Smoking may be the reason a person is more likely to experience both poor oral health and heart health.
- Quality of care. Still another explanation is that people who don’t make oral health care a priority may also not keep up with other factors that affect their overall health, such as seeing a doctor regularly, eating a healthy diet or exercising. Less access to quality dental and medical care may also be to blame.
Although it can’t be stated conclusively that brushing and flossing regularly will make your heart healthier, the fact is that you can’t lose by being vigilant about your oral health. Routine oral hygiene, along with regular visits to the dentist, help keep your teeth and gums healthier. This makes it less likely you’ll experience gum disease, tooth loss or other tooth-related issues such as cavities. As an added bonus, you may just be keeping your heart healthier by keeping your mouth healthier. Now that’s something to smile about!
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Date Last Reviewed: August 17, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD