Teeth are probably not the part of your body you would typically associate with your heart, but several studies have highlighted a connection between oral health and heart health. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Surgical Subspecialties Institute Staff Dentist, Dr. Marwan Atrouni, explains how the two may be related, and shares his advice for taking care of your teeth.
The connection between oral health and the heart
The exact relationship between the health of your teeth and gums, and their impact on heart health is still being investigated, but studies have indicated that certain dental problems may increase the risk of developing heart conditions. These include:
This type of abscess occurs when bacteria gets into the inner part of the tooth, resulting in an accumulation of pus in the bone around the root of the tooth. Symptoms can include a severe, persistent toothache, throbbing pain, fever, and swelling of the cheek or face.
In rare cases, the bacteria from the abscess may travel through the bloodstream from the mouth to the heart valves and lining of the heart chambers. This is known as endocarditis and can cause serious damage to the heart, especially if left untreated.
Those with pre-existing heart conditions may be more vulnerable to developing endocarditis. Patients scheduled for heart valve surgery will also undergo a dental examination to clear them prior to their procedure.
More commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease is the inflammation and infection of the gums. Symptoms can include gums that look red and swollen, that bleed easily, sensitive teeth, bad breath, a receding gumline and, in advanced cases, loosening of the teeth.
The inflammation caused by the gum infection can place an increased burden on the immune system, potentially making you more susceptible to developing diseases, including those of the heart.
How to look after your teeth
Maintaining a good dental hygiene routine will help keep your teeth and gums healthy, and reduce the likeliness of tooth decay, gum disease and abscesses:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss at least once daily to remove deposits between the teeth.
- Use an electric toothbrush for more effective cleaning.
- Visit the dentist every 6 months for a check-up.
- Visit the dentist or dental hygienist every 4-6 months for cleaning or scaling.
- Follow a healthy diet, and keep sugary and acidic foods to a minimum.