Poor Dental Care and Heart Disease

Can Poor Dental Care Cause Heart Disease

Poor Dental Care and Heart DiseaseTwo minutes twice per day. Four minutes total. Just 4 minutes a day that consists of 1,440 minutes is all it takes to establish a regular dental health routine. More than fresh breath, regular brushing removes harmful bacteria that cause plaque build-up which can lead to periodontal disease. An inflammatory condition that affects the whole body, periodontal disease can cause devastating health consequences. In our continuing series on the connection between poor oral health to systemic diseases, we answer “Can Periodontal Disease Cause Heart Disease?”

About Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2016, an estimated 17.9 million people died from heart disease, a staggering 31% of all deaths reported. Every 40 seconds someone suffers from a heart attack. Cardiovascular disease is not gender specific. Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men and 1 in3 women’s deaths are attributed to heart disease. Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ACD) occurs when arteries begin to harden with plaque, restricting blood flow to the heart. This constriction can result in a heart attack. Plaque can ultimately burst and cause clots that can lead to stroke. In cases where coronary plaque has been removed and studied, the presence of specific periodontal bacteria has been found. The association between heart disease and periodontal disease is established although a causative relationship has not been proven.

An Association Between Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease

Any inflammatory process, such as periodontal disease can negatively impact other organs including the heart. There is a 1.5 – 2 times higher risk of stroke when both periodontal and coronary disease is present in the body. Evidence suggests that periodontal disease could trigger a systemic reaction including plaque formation in the bloodstream, ultimately leading to high blood pressure. Known as the ‘silent killer’ high blood pressure damages arteries. Restricted blood flow can lead to angina, constrained breathing and tight chest pain that serves as a warning sign of a major cardiovascular problem and an occurrence of the often-fatal cardiac event – the heart attack. Additionally, persons suffering from heart disease are at risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm or rate at which the heart beats. In the presence of systemic inflammation, the liver releases a substance called C-reactive protein, intended to heal the body.C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation that has been found in heart disease patients as well as periodontal patients, further establishing the potential relationship between these two systemic inflammatory diseases.

Genetics and Other Contributing Factors

Cardiovascular and periodontal diseases bear many common risk factors from genetics and family history to other diseases including diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Man-made habits such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and obesity, can also contribute to these diseases. As we get older, our immune systems begin to decline. In the presence of one or more diseases, infections and risks greatly increase. Diabetes, heart disease, and periodontal disease are inter-connected– a relationship exists. The importance of taking care of our health cannot be stressed enough.

Dental Care Habits Matter

Respiratory issues, diabetes and glycemic management, and cardiovascular disease. Each of these potentially life-threatening diseases is each either linked or associated at some level with periodontal disease. Will brushing your teeth prevent stroke? Will flossing and mouthwash cure coronary disease? No, but we do know that adhering to a daily routine of good dental habits with twice annual checkups, it’s an important step in the prevention of periodontal disease and maintaining treatment outcomes. We do know that observational studies support the association between cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease. Therefore, prevention and treatment of periodontal disease is critical not only for the health of your mouth but also for your overall systemic well being.

Two minutes twice per day. That’s four minutes total. A little bit of your time that can make a significant difference long-term.

Dr. Nikola Angelov

Dr. Angelov is a guest contributor, currently Professor and Chair of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.