The notion that problems in the mouth cause disease elsewhere in the body makes sense but has been difficult to prove.
Several studies have shown that people suffering from periodontal disease are more likely to have heart disease than people with healthy mouths.
Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation (gingivitis) to periodontitis which can result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In advanced cases, teeth may be lost.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria which release toxins into the bloodstream, which helps to form plaques in the arteries. This in turn can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can block the blood flow. The same bacteria can also cause the liver to produce high levels of certain proteins, which can inflame the blood vessels. This inflammation may eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
“The mouth can be a good warning signpost,” said Ann Bolger, M.D., William Watt Kerr Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “People with periodontitis often have risk factors that not only put their mouth at risk, but their heart and blood vessels, too. But whether one causes the other has not actually been shown.”
Although we still have a lot to learn about whether periodontitis and other oral problems are linked to heart disease, it still makes good sense to take care of your teeth. Brush and floss every day, and see your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and oral exams. This will pay off for your oral health and just may benefit your heart as well.