The connection between oral and heart health

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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From Vidant Chowan Hospital

EDENTON — If somebody told you that not brushing your teeth could cause heart failure, would you believe them? It may sound strange, but there’s actually some truth to it. Let’s go over the surprising ways oral and heart health are connected.

Scientific research has found a correlation between oral health and heart health a number of times. Some findings include:

  • Gum disease is connected to a higher risk for heart disease.
  • Oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to the heart.
  • People on blood pressure medications achieve better results if they have good oral health.
  • Tooth loss is connected with coronary artery disease.
  • Brushing teeth often is associated with a lower chance of developing atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
  • Regular visits to the dentist combined with frequent tooth brushing reduces the risk of future heart problems.

And while these findings are compelling, they only prove correlation, not causation. Researchers are still trying to confirm if good oral health leads to good heart health, or if there are other factors influencing both.

Whether or not oral and heart health are intertwined, you can still take steps to care for both.

Tips for keeping your teeth and gums healthy:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss once a day.
  • See your dentist for a checkup and cleaning on a regular basis.
  • Minimize how often you consume sugary or acidic foods such as candy, soda and fruit juice.
  • Don’t use any tobacco products, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Tips for protecting your heart health:

  • Eat a healthy diet. This means eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and consuming fewer saturated fats and less sodium and sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for other factors that can cause heart disease.
  • Control your blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure increases your risk for a heart attack.
  • Keep your cholesterol low. High cholesterol levels can cause clogged arteries.
  • Limit alcohol. Alcoholic drinks should be limited to two per day for men and one per day for women.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can raise your blood pressure and trigger an irregular heartbeat.