How is Oral Health Correlated to Heart Health?

If you haven’t thought about visiting a cosmetic dentist to improve your oral health and the appearance of your smile, these three research pieces may give you that extra motivation you need.

A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, co-authored by a doctor from the University of Cambridge, finds a link between poor oral hygiene, junk food consumption, periodontal disease and heart disease.

The study reveals how an excessive intake of sugar can lead to damaged teeth and gums and even worse, chronic infection. In turn, this can trigger an inflammatory response using a process called atherosclerosis where the arteries are hardened.

One of the paper’s authors, Dr Ahmed Rashid, has stated junk foods high in salt, fat and particularly sugar can influence this link between oral and cardiovascular health. He recommends the UK population be encouraged to reduce their intake of junk foods and fizzy drinks to help improve oral hygiene.

“Reducing sugar consumption and managing dental problems early could help prevent heart problems later in life,” Dr Rashid said in a media release.

This latest study reinforces the results of an earlier investigation carried out by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center, which also found a link between gum disease and cardiovascular health conditions.

In the Columbia study, researchers examined the mouths of 657 people for bacteria and the thickness of their carotid arteries, which help to identify the presence of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries, caused by the buildup of plaque. It has been identified as a major risk factor for heart disease, strokes, and other cardiovascular-related deaths.

They found people with higher levels of the bacteria associated with periodontal disease also displayed increased artery thickness.

Similarly, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health researchers took plaque samples of 420 adults from beneath the gum and analysed them for 11 different bacterial strains associated with periodontal disease, as well as seven forms of control bacteria. In addition to this, researchers also measured the level of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries of each participant.

The study’s results showed there may be a link between oral health and atherosclerosis. Participants with poorer periodontal health exhibited a difference in the thickness of their carotid arteries, compared to participants whose gums were in a better condition.

“Our results show a clear relationship between what is happening in the mouth and thickening of the carotid artery, even before the onset of full-fledged periodontal disease,” said study co-author Professor Panos N. Papapanou.

These findings present a compelling case for looking after your teeth and gums, which should involve thorough and regular cleaning as well as visits to the dentist.  Several cosmetic procedures such as dental implants and invisible braces not only support the improved appearance of teeth but better oral health and hygiene as well.

If you feel your teeth need dental treatment, talk to a dentist to determine which procedure would be most suitable for you.