Although most people have heard about the importance of flossing, brushing, and maintaining good oral health in order to have fresh breath and to keep your teeth, very few understand the implications of poor oral health to their overall health and particularly the connection to cardiovascular disease. Likewise, if more people were aware how good oral health benefits their health, they would make it a much greater priority.

The Connection Between Oral Health And High Blood Pressure

According to the American Heart Association, close to half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Additionally, more than 70% of older American adults (ages 65 and older) have high blood pressure. That age category is also the fastest growing in the U.S., and it is projected to reach 95 million by 2060.

The fact is that the bacteria that infects the gums, often making them swollen, red, quick to bleed, and eventually causing gingivitis and periodontitis, also travels to blood vessels elsewhere in the body. This bacteria can cause blood vessel inflammation and damage, as well as blood clots, followed by a heart attack or stroke.

Recently, researchers evaluated data for 1,215 postmenopausal women (average age of 63) in the Buffalo Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease Study in Buffalo, New York. They recorded blood pressure and collected oral plaque from below the gum line in all the participants. They identified 245 unique strains of bacteria in the plaque samples. And they found that ten of the bacteria were associated with a 10% to 16% higher risk of developing high blood pressure. About one-third of the participants who did not suffer from hypertension or were not being treated for hypertension at the beginning of the study were in fact diagnosed with high blood pressure during the follow-up period, which was an average of 10 years.

Poor Oral Health And Cardiovascular Disease

Poor oral health has been seen as a possible cause of heart disease for many years. Many studies point at gum disease (periodontitis) as being associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Poor dental health has also shown to increase the risk of a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, which can affect the heart valves. When there is tooth loss (a consequence of poor oral health), studies have shown it to be connected to coronary artery disease.

Other Risk Factors of Poor Oral Health

The connection between poor oral health and overall health may not be limited to cardiovascular disease. Since there is a strong connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is evidence that people with diabetes can also benefit from periodontal treatment. Studies have also linked periodontal disease to rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, a 2018 study found a link between the same bacterium and risk of pancreatic cancer. And of course, poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

How Do You Stay Healthy?

In order to maintain optimal oral health, make sure to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day, limit your intake of sugar, rinse after meals, keep a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and come in at least once every six months for a dental checkup and cleaning.

I am Dr. Onatsky. Call today to schedule an appointment: 718-621-0827. Onatsky Dental Clinic is located at 2960 Ocean Ave 1st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11235.