Why taking care of your teeth ensures a healthy heart

Here’s why keeping your smile shiny and white ensures your heart stays strong too.

12 May 2015
by Carla Calitz

Staying up to date with your dental appointments won’t only keep your pearly whites looking good, it will also keep your heart ticking along smoothly, according to extensive scientific evidence.

Though the link between dental health and heart health isn’t completely clear, scientists believe there are many ways in which what goes on in your oral cavity can affect the rest of your body and vice versa.

The missing link

A recent report from international experts in periodontology and cardiology that was published in both the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology made these points about the links between gum disease and heart disease:

  • Several studies show that gum disease is, by itself, a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
  • Studies show that gum disease is a risk factor for strokes.
  • Research has found a direct link between clogged arteries in the legs and gum disease.
  • Bacteria found in both gum and heart disease are similar.
  • Inflammation is a common denominator for both conditions.

Sea Point dentist Dr Marc Sher agrees that there is a link between dental and heart health. “When it comes to the heart, having a healthy mouth can safeguard a person from dangerous bacterial infections that can affect the heart. Rheumatic fever is a condition that permanently affects the heart valves and the cause is from a bacteria, Streptococcus, which originates in the oral cavity. If one allows the bacterial count in your mouth to become overwhelming, there is a risk of developing a life-threatening heart condition,” says Dr Sher.

Also, patients presenting with moderate to severe gum disease may have an increased risk for heart and blood vessel problems, he says.

“While there is little scientific evidence to prove this link, there is complete logic behind this way of thinking,” says Dr Sher. “For example, when one has a moderate to severe gum disease, there is an increased level of inflammation in the mouth. These inflammatory markers are now flowing through the blood stream and can certainly put undue strain on the heart and blood vessels.”

Also, another logical analysis of how dental health impacts heart health is that people who tend to neglect their mouths will also tend to neglect their overall health. “I find those patients who maintain a healthy lifestyle have the same motivation to look after their mouths,” confirms Dr Sher.

Follow Dr Sher's 9 golden rules for keeping your teeth – and your heart – healthy

  1. Floss daily.
  2. Brush for two minutes morning and night with an electric toothbrush.
  3. Avoid a high acidic and sugar diet and maintain a neutral pH balance in your mouth.
  4. Have a professional cleaning twice a year.
  5. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  6. Visit your dentist at least once a year.
  7. Don’t use your teeth for anything else but smiling and eating – that is, don’t tear things or open bottles with them!
  8. Use a mouthwash.
  9. Don’t be afraid to smile!

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Heart Disease Super Section