At first, it might seem unrelated: periodontitis and cardiovascular disease? What’s the deal here? However, recent studies showed there’s more than meets the eye.

The Gum – Heart Connection

In 2019, the European Society of Cardiology revealed a close link between hypertension (high blood pressure) and periodontitis (inflammatory gum disease).

In their meta-analysis, they found that the risk of hypertension was 22% for those with moderate to severe gum disease. The percentage soared to 49% for those with more severe problems with their gums.

Meanwhile, arterial blood pressure was also higher for those with a dental condition than those without. The difference, although small, was significant, according to their study. An increase of at least five mmHg could already raise the odds of premature death to stroke and heart attack by 25%.

That’s not all. In the same year, another European research associated gum disease and heart attack with undetected diabetes. A consistently higher-than-normal glucose level is one of the risk factors of cardiovascular disorders as it can increase inflammation of the heart and damage to the blood vessels.

But where does the connection truly lie between periodontitis and these conditions? The answer is in the bacteria.

The mouth is home to over a thousand types of bacteria, and they make up the oral flora or microbiome. In an ideal environment, the good ones can suppress the bad.

However, factors such as diet or poor oral hygiene can tip the scale in favor of the more dangerous pathogen. Depending on the bacteria, they can damage the function of the blood vessels, according to the European Society of Cardiology.

Bacteria can also relate to diabetes. When a person has the condition, the amount of glucose in the saliva can be higher. They are also prone to infection and dry mouth, which both create the perfect habitat for these pathogens.

dentist and patient

Minimizing the Risks with Good Dental Hygiene

Experts believe that dental hygiene alone won’t reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. However, undergoing dental services, for example, could promote early diagnosis and intervention.

The faster the person can manage these conditions, the lesser are the chances for them to progress into something more severe or deadlier.

Based on the guidelines, Americans need to visit their dentist only once a year unless they already have a pre-existing dental condition that requires close monitoring. Those who are predisposed or diagnosed with cardiovascular disorders and diabetes can also benefit from more frequent checkups, like twice a year.

Other good oral practices can also help:

  • Brushing and flossing the teeth can remove food particles that feed bacteria.
  • Drinking lots of water can help wash out some bacteria in the mouth and prevent dry mouth.
  • Stopping smoking and drinking alcohol can help strengthen the immune system and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Limiting sugary drinks and starchy food can be good for the heart. It also helps manage diabetes.

To minimize heart disease is to overhaul one’s lifestyle, but proper dental hygiene can also catch it before it gets worse.