Can Poor Oral Health Cause Heart Disease?

Although there is not enough scientific research backing the claim that oral health is the definite cause of conditions such as coronary artery disease and stroke, it can be said that treatment of periodontal disease can reduce overall inflammation in the body and lower the risk of heart-related problems. However, this does not mean that it can entirely prevent heart diseases and risk for stroke, because much of that is also based on other factors such as age, genetics, exercising, healthy eating, and so on. But it can certainly help to maintain your oral health and do whatever necessary to lower the risk for these kinds life-threatening illnesses.


Periodontitis and heart disease share similar risk factors such as:

  • age
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • inflammation


This might explain why its possible that deteriorating oral health and heart diseases can occur at the same time, but there is not enough research to point to definite correlation or to rush into oral surgery in order to prevent heart diseases. Because of the similar risks that both have, studies have shown that people with periodontal disease may be more likely to have coronary artery disease. So essentially taking care of one condition might help the other.


There are two explanations on the association between periodontitis and heart diseases that scientists do have. One possible explanation is that the bacteria that causes periodontitis could release toxins or travel through the bloodstream and cause plaque to clog up arteries, exacerbating the heart’s condition by forming blood clots and hindering blood flow. This is why it is important to be aware, and let your doctor know that if you are a patient with certain heart conditions, you might need to take antibiotics in order to lower the risk of this bacteria entering the bloodstream during treatment.


Patients with heart disease and periodontitis are at a higher risk of endocarditis, which is an infection in the heart. If the bacteria has the chance to enter the bloodstream, it can attach to damaged heart tissue and heart valves. Pre-treatments with antibiotics is therefore advised for some people at higher risk for endocarditis. The American Heart Association has updated it’s policy in 2007, so that fewer conditions actually require antibiotics than before. Nevertheless, these are the following conditions that doctors will look for before treating patients with antibiotics:


  • A heart defect repaired with a prosthetic device or material
  • A heart defect that was repaired but still has a defect
  • A heart defect that hasn’t been repaired or was incompletely repaired


The second explanation for the association between periodontitis and heart disease is that the bacteria that causes periodontitis can promote the liver to make high levels of proteins which can inflame the blood vessels and also contribute to poor blood flow. This inflammation, like previously mentioned, is also a risk for heart disease and can cause strokes or heart attacks.


Although the causation and correlation have not been backed up significantly by research between these two conditions, there is still a connection regarding the symptoms of heart disease affecting oral health. For example, usually an oncoming heart attack can feel like pain traveling into the lower jaw. Some drugs that prevent high blood pressure (another risk of heart disease), congestive heart failure or agina can also cause gum overgrowth, dry mouth and an altered sense of taste.


Regardless of how much of an effect periodontitis has on heart disease, it is always wise to take care of this condition and speak with your dentist. Sometimes, the factors that are causing one condition might also be worsening the other. Oral health is an important factor to your health on it’s own and can help prevent some major complications along the way.



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