By Lauren Del Sarto

Studies Link Periodontal Health and Heart Disease

Brushing your teeth is not only good for your smile. Recent studies indicate that it also decreases your chances of suffering a heart attack.

Researchers in England analyzed data from more than 11,000 people taking part in an 8 eight-year study called the Scottish Health Survey. They examined lifestyle habits such as smoking, overall physical activity, and oral health routines. Patients were asked how often they visited the dentist and how often they brushed their teeth.

62% of the participants said they went to a dentist every six months and 71% said they brushed their teeth twice a day. After adjusting the data for cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, social class, and family heart disease history, the researchers found that people who admitted to brushing their teeth less frequently had a 70% higher risk of heart disease.1

“Our results confirmed and further strengthened the suggested association between oral hygiene and the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Richard Watt, DDS, of University College London. The findings of the study were not necessarily shocking, the researchers say, because scientists have increasingly wondered about a possible connection between dental disease and cardiovascular health.

Moise Desvarieux, MD, PhD of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, authored a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association that studied 657 people without known heart disease. He and his co-authors found that people who had higher blood levels of certain disease-causing bacteria in the mouth were more likely to have atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck. Clogging of the carotid arteries can lead to stroke.


According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery (or heart) disease. And one study found that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease (gingivitis), cavities, and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.

Poor oral hygiene is the major cause of periodontal disease, a chronic infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Thus, gum infections seem to add to the inflammatory burden on the body, increasing cardiovascular risk. AAP writes that “Inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, and markers of low grade inflammation have been consistently associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”

That inflammation could be the root of the problem adds to other research suggesting that more and more diseases, including periodontal disease, heart disease, and arthritis, are partially caused by the body’s own inflammatory response.2

“Annual periodontal screenings are vital to help your dentist identify issues and to educate you on potential risks for disease,” advises Dr. Mo Hishmeh of Palm Desert. “Common signs include red, swollen gums that are tender to the touch; bleeding during brushing and flossing; and plaque deposits between the teeth which are often hard to reach.”

Your dental professional can help you get started on a path to a healthier smile and a healthier life.

References: (1) Bill Hendrick and Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC, WebMD Health News; Study is published in the journal BMJ. 2) Periodontal Disease and Heart HealthBrushing and flossing may actually save your life. R. Morgan Griffin and Louise Chang, MD


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