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Taking Care of Your Mouth Is Taking Care of Your Heart

Taking Care of Your Mouth Is Taking Care of Your Heart

Would it make sense to observe American Heart Month at any time of year other than February, the month of valentines?

A harder question for some is why a dental office would have anything to do with heart health. In fact, oral health and heart health are actually connected, just as teeth and body are connected.

The Energetic Relationship Between Teeth & Heart

Did you know, for instance, that you have specific teeth that are energetically connected to your heart? Both of your upper canines and all four wisdom teeth sit on the same energetic pathways that run through your heart, among other organs.

In a future post, we’ll look more closely at this meridian system, a concept that comes to biological dentistry through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, a disturbance on any given meridian can affect other organs sharing the same pathway. So trouble with the heart could have impacts on any of those 6 connected teeth, and vice versa – although there are plenty of other variables that determine if and how this would manifest.

But there are important physical relationships between the mouth and heart, as well.

Gum Disease Linked with Heart Disease

Over the years, science has consistently shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease, as recent reviews demonstrate. While it’s not yet clear if one causes the other, we do know that gum disease raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as events such as heart attack, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.

While this is often treated as a fairly recent discovery, our understanding of the mouth/heart connection goes back to at least the 1960s. Consider, for instance, this passage from a 1965 paper in the American Heart Journal:

In almost all ailments of the heart caused by bacteria, the source of infection is known to be the pathologic and infected environment of the teeth…the health, welfare, and even life itself, of persons who have heart conditions which predispose to infection, may depend upon prevention and control of dental disease…. I believe that at some time in the future, leading cardiologists will wonder, in retrospect, how information so needed by their patients could have been overlooked or neglected for so long.

It just took science some time to catch up with such insights. Now, researchers continue to refine our understanding of gum disease’s impact on heart health.

Recent Research on Gum Disease & Heart Health

In one recent study, researchers reviewed CT and PET scans from 304 adults, looking for signs of inflammation in the gums and in the arteries. They also tracked major cardiovascular events over time.

Those who showed signs of gum inflammation – a hallmark of gum disease – at the start of the study were more likely to have suffered a heart attack or stroke by the end of it. They were also more likely to develop inflammation in their arteries, which sets the stage for cardiovascular disease.

These findings held up even after the scientists took into account other risk factors common to both heart and gum disease – things such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Another recent study involved even more patients – 1850 older individuals – who were followed for 13 years. Over half had moderate periodontitis (the advanced form of gum disease that leads to tooth loss if left untreated). Just over a third had severe periodontitis, while the rest had mild cases or were disease-free.

During those 13 years, just under 6% experienced a cardiovascular event – mostly the onset of chronic heart disease, with a smaller number suffering strokes.

After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, a significant association between severe periodontitis and the incidence of [coronary heart disease] was found compared with the no/mild periodontitis group….

Taking Care of Your Mouth Is Taking Care of Your Heart

By now, you’re probably ready for the good news, and that good news is very good: Stepping up your oral health care can lower your risk of heart issues.

Even one additional toothbrushing per day is associated with a reduction in [cardiovascular] events, while a professional dental cleaning reduces this risk even further.  Prompt treatment of periodontal therapy also imparts a positive impact upon cardiovascular health.

But home hygiene and regular dental visits are just one part of prevention. Both oral and heart health are also both affected by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Yes, believe it or don’t, but regular exercise supports good oral health! And the kind of diet that’s kindest to your teeth and gums – low in sugars and refined carbs – is one that benefits your heart, as well.

Make that commitment to your own heart and body, and no doubt the hearts of your friends and loved ones will be happy, as well.

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