Since February is American Heart Month, we’d like to take a moment to discuss an aspect of your cardiovascular health that you may not be aware of—its relationship to the state of your oral health. Although you may not naturally think that they are connected, the mechanisms that result in gum disease are similar to those of heart disease, and numerous studies suggest that the two chronic illnesses may be connected. To highlight this relationship and what it may mean for your oral and physical wellbeing, we explain what you should know about the connection between gum disease and heart disease.
The Heart and Mouth Connection
One of the more interesting similarities between gum disease and heart disease is that they both begin with the buildup of plaque. Arterial plaque consists of calcium, fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, and other substances found in your bloodstream. Dental plaque, however, is made almost entirely out of oral bacteria, and it is among these germs that we find the key to the microbial link between the two diseases.
The dental plaque bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is largely responsible for the inflammation that accompanies the development and progression of gum disease. This microbe manipulates your immune system to neutralize the processes that would normally destroy it. Consequently, P. gingivalis has also been found in arterial plaque deposits among heart disease patients.
Inflammation isn’t the only mechanism that can threaten your heart health. Certain mouth germs pose no threat to your oral health, but once allowed into your bloodstream through diseased oral tissues, they can mimic proteins that prompt your blood to clot and block your arteries and blood vessels; a precursor to a number of different illnesses, including heart attack and stroke.
Keeping your mouth clean with good hygiene and regular dental care won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid cardiovascular issues in the future. Yet, excellent oral health will significantly reduce your risks of experiencing such issues in the future.