Heart Happiness and Oral Health
Oral health means taking care of the cleanliness and health of your teeth and gums. It is a term used by dentists and dental hygienists to indicate the adequacy of the patient’s oral health care. Patients with good oral hygiene brush and floss regularly and their teeth and gums are in good condition, and on the other hand, patients with poor oral hygiene fail to take proper care of their mouth, and have significant cavities and\or gum disease. What does dental care have to do with a patient's heart?
The most dangerous heart condition, with the highest mortality rate, is a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when the coronary artery (the biggest artery in the heart, linking the heart and the lungs) gets narrowed or even clogged completely. The most common cause is, of course, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise, in addition to genetic predisposition. It is estimated that nearly 3000 people die every day from heart attacks, meaning a death nearly every 30 seconds. What do heart diseases have to do with dental care?
How dental hygiene and heart disease are related:
The relationship between dental health (specifically gum disease) and heart disease is subject to extensive research these days. Scientists are trying to establish the link between the two conditions, based on the fact that they are both inflammatory conditions, and that the bacteria related to both diseases may be similar. Until now, there was no definite connection between the two conditions, but experts in periodontology and cardiology studied the data from over 120 studies researching this link and formed a report stating that:
- Gum disease itself is a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
- There is a direct link between clogged arteries in the leg and gum disease.
- Gum disease is a significant risk factor for disease of the blood vessels and arteries supplying the brain and could lead to stroke.
One study studied the direct link between gum disease and the thickness of the wall of the coronary artery. The study, by Desvarieux et al. in 2005, examined a large sum of patients of various ages, races and underlying medical conditions, and measured the thickness of the wall of the coronary artery and its relation to gum disease. It was found that people who brush and floss regularly and take care of their oral hygiene, maintain the thickness of the coronary arteries’ walls at a minimum (meaning no clogging and no heart attack will occur) and people with poor oral hygiene suffer increased thickness of the coronary artery walls.
Does that mean that if I don’t brush my teeth, I could get a heart attack?
The link is not definitively established, but most studies are directed towards answering that question. Until the studies are conclusive, it is the duty of all cardiologists as well as dentists and hygienists to advise their patients on the dangers of gum disease not only to their teeth and mouth but to their heart and general health as well. In essence, taking care of your teeth and gums may prove to be the lifeline that saves patients from heart attacks.