For decades we have understood the connection between what you eat and your heart health. We even know that the right amount and type of exercise has an effect on your heart health. But less well known is the connection between your dental health and your heart health. What? That’s not part of the song… your teeth bones connected to your… heart?
According to the American Heart Association, the main link between oral health and your heart is infection. Bacterial infection that may start in your gums or teeth can very well make its way to your heart via your bloodstream, which can also affect your valves. These diseases can also cause inflammation in your blood vessels and that can lead to damage, blood clots, and eventually a heart attack.
Inflammation is simply the problem. Inflammation is your body’s response to being hurt in any way. Say you cut yourself while cooking dinner one night. You might notice the cut swell and turn red at the site. That’s inflammation at work–your body is sending an army of white blood cells to surround and protect it. Inflammation can also happen elsewhere in your body. It can happen in relation to a buildup of atherosclerosis, which is fatty, cholesterol-containing plaque, but if your body can’t do the job well enough and the protection breaks down, then the plaque will rupture and cause a heart attack or a stroke. Inflammation in general can also set off reactions that can simply cause vascular damage.
Other factors could have nothing to do with any specific link between the two at all. Someone who smokes may be at risk both for both conditions. Smoking does a number on the health of your teeth (same as drinking soda or coffee). If you’re not careful and don’t take proper care, then you could be at risk for any number of oral diseases that, if not taken care of properly, can lead to any number of issues with the heart.
Additionally, someone who is in a lower economic bracket may also face these issues. First, someone may choose to smoke to decrease their appetite to save money on groceries or to save those groceries for other family members. This can lead to the issues mentioned previously. And second, even if they don’t smoke, they may not have the funds to maintain good dental hygiene and routine dental visits. Therefore,they would remain unaware of any issues,and thus not be in a place to fix them. This could lead to potential gum disease and bloodstream infection that might settle on the heart valves or increase inflammation in the blood vessels that might lead to a plaque rupture then a heart attack.
To make a long story short: take care of your teeth, take care of your heart.