Does a healthy mouth equal a healthy heart? The overwhelming amount of the research says that it does. Doctors have been talking about the potential link for over two decades.
Heart disease is a serious problem around the world. So is poor oral health. What if your dentist could take a peek inside your mouth and see if you're at risk for heart disease? What if your dentist could help you lower your risk for heart disease?
Heart attack and stroke are the leading causes of death in the U.S., so it makes sense to do all you can to improve your health and all you can to reduce your risks for both. Heart attacks and strokes have both been linked with inflammatory responses that put the body “under attack,” making it more susceptible to diseases and conditions like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and even high cholesterol.
What the Studies Say
The list of studies linking gum disease bacteria and inflammation with heart attacks and strokes is long. In one landmark study, researchers found oral bacteremia (presence of oral pathogens in the bloodstream) play a role in about half of all heart attacks. The study analyzed the bacterial components in clots associated with heart attacks and found many of the clots contained bacteria associated with periodontal disease.
That’s just one of several studies examining the link between oral bacteria and the incidence of heart attacks and stroke. Here are highlights from some of the other studies:
- Gum disease (and the inflammatory responses it causes) significantly increases the risk of having a first heart attack. (Circulation)
- The severity and extent of gum disease directly correlate with the severity of heart attacks. (Journal of Dental Research)
- Oral bacteria are found in the heart plaque of patients who have coronary bypass surgery, showing a direct link with the pathogens and coronary artery disease. (Journal of Maxillofacial Oral Surgery)
- Patients who have had heart attacks are at an increased risk for future events when gum disease-causing bacteria are in the bloodstream. (Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology)
Periodontal disease also significantly increases the risk of stroke. In one study, researchers found gum disease carries about the same stroke risk as high blood pressure, long considered a major cause of stroke and other cerebral events. Plus, several studies have found gum disease contributes to or even triggers atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), the primary cause of ischemic stroke.
The good news: At least one study found prophylactic treatment for gum disease ― including being screened for bacteria and having appropriate care when needed ― protects against heart attacks and other conditions caused by chronic inflammation, including strokes.
Oral DNA Testing: Reduce Your Risks of Heart Attack and Stroke
Oral DNA testing plays a major role in gum disease prevention and treatment by providing an accurate assessment of the bacterial populations in an individual’s mouth. The test is fast, simple and completely noninvasive. Saliva samples are collected in our office and then analyzed, with results serving as a roadmap for improved oral care and better overall health.