Can better toothbrushing lower the risk of cardiovascular disease?
Does good dental hygiene help prevent heart infection by reducing the risk of a tooth or gum infection? Is there a connection between poor oral health and cardiovascular problems?

What better time than February, American Heart Month, to consider these questions.

An article by Robert H. Shmerling, MD for Harvard Health Publishing discusses theories that have been proposed on these topic and offers this commentary.

“Whether the link is direct, indirect or coincidence, a healthy mouth and a regimen to keep it that way (including not smoking, and getting regular dental care) can help you keep your teeth. That’s reason enough to do what you can to make oral health a priority. Perhaps it will turn out to have other benefits though much of that remains speculative.”

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School 
Shown, an artificial heart valve (aortic bileaflet) implanted into heart to replace a disfunctional native valve., shares a few thoughts for consideration from the American Dental Association on the topic, related to a 2012 statement from the American Heart Association that poor oral health hasn’t been proven to cause heart disease. And yet…

“…many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.”

And, according to an article from the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown:

  • Gum disease (periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
  • Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves. Oral health may be particularly important if you have artificial heart valves.
  • There is a strong connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and evidence that people with diabetes benefit from periodontal treatment.

Not sure what to think about the connection between heart health and oral health?

Then, consider your overall body health.
The Mayo Clinic and numerous other sources attest that other risk factors are linked to oral infections.

“Infections requiring a root canal and gum disease also increase the risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases like pneumonia.”