Dental Health and the Heart

Posted by Pi Dental Center on Feb 16, 2021 12:00:00 PM

Heart with tooth graphic for blog - dental health and the heartFebruary is heart month. So this month we review current literature and research about the link between dental health and the heart and discuss tips.

Heart Disease

Heart disease refers to conditions that involve the heart, its vessels, muscles, valves, or internal electric pathways responsible for muscular contraction. Common heart disease conditions include coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, and arrhythmias.

Heart disease claims around 610,000 lives each year, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. There is a link between this deadly disease and the health of your gums.

According to a study by the Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden, gum disease increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28%.

Gum Disease

Periodontal diseases (gum diseases), including periodontitis, affect the surrounding tissues which support the teeth. Periodontitis, (inflammation around the teeth), is a serious gum infection that progressively damages the soft tissue and alveolar bone that supports the tooth. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, stick to the tooth surface and multiply causing an overactive immune system to react with inflammation.

Untreated periodontitis eventually results in tooth loss, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems. Bacterial plaque is a sticky, colorless membrane that develops over the surface of teeth. It is the most common cause of periodontal disease.

Signs of gum disease include red, swollen gums that are sore to the touch. Gums may bleed during brushing, flossing and eating. Pus is present around gums and teeth. Gums appear to pull away from the teeth. Teeth are loose or mobile.

Studies show gum disease is linked to heart disease.

By promoting systemic inflammation, periodontal disease may lead to cardiovascular disease. Treatment of periodontal disease has been reported to improve cardiovascular function in patients without overt coronary disease.

One study supported earlier findings that chronic periodontitis was associated with an incidence of coronary artery disease among men under the age of 60. Research also found a trend toward reduced periodontal risk in patients using statins. This supports findings that statin use was associated with fewer periodontal pockets.

Doctors at the University of Alabama studied the relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. Given that atherosclerosis is a systemic disease and periodontal disease may promote atherosclerosis, periodontal disease may also be associated with an increased risk of stroke. They hypothesized that tooth loss would also be associated with higher levels of inflammation and stroke. The study reinforced the association between periodontal disease, as measured by tooth loss and inflammation, and supports an association between periodontal disease and stroke.

Oral inflammation and the heart

Inflammation is part of an immune response to fight off pathogens and clear infections, protecting the body. Chronic inflammation damages the heart, even when no infection is present. This inflammation can cause structural changes to the heart, causing the muscle to become enlarged or develop fibrous tissue, impeding the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently and leading to further deterioration.

Gum Disease and Plaque

The most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque can cause blood clots that induce heart attacks when they escape into the bloodstream. Heart disease is approximately twice as high in people with periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation of the gums due to plaque could also be involved in the inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels that is known to lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries.

“Smoking has strong relationships to both tooth loss and heart disease,” said Dr. Catherine Okoro, an epidemiologist at the CDC. “Nonetheless, when we stratified by age group and smoking status, a significant association remained between tooth loss and heart disease among respondents aged 40 to 59 years who had never smoked.” The researchers reported the results are consistent with previous studies that link periodontal disease and tooth loss to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack.

Gum disease appears to worsen blood pressure and can interfere with medications designed to treat hypertension, high blood pressure.

Poor dental health also poses a risk to people with heart valve problems, stated Dr. Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco. “I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to heart valve patients about their teeth because we know certain heart valve infections can be associated with poor oral health.” This latest research “is a good reminder that the mouth is an important part of a person's entire health and simple, daily behaviors that improve health are incredibly important.”

Heart disease symptoms:

  • Coronary artery disease symptoms may be different for men and women. For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain. Women are more likely to have other signs and symptoms along with chest discomfort, such as shortness of breath, nausea and extreme fatigue.
  • Signs and symptoms can include:

    • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
    • Shortness of breath
    • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
    • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
  • Always call 911 or emergency medical help if you think you might be having a heart attack.

What if you already have heart disease?

If you already have heart disease, be sure to follow a meticulous oral hygiene regimen. Good oral hygiene can help prevent heart infections.

Follow these easy steps to keep your heart and mouth healthy.

  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. In addition, make sure that you see your dentist regularly.
  • Make sure you tell your dentist about your heart condition.
  • Follow any instructions given to you by your dentist and physician. This is especially important because you may need a prescription for an antibiotic before your dental appointments.
  • Prevention is the best medicine
  • Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. These habits can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.

Good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are your best protection against the development of gum disease. If you would like to schedule an appointment for an examination including oral hygiene at Pi Dental Center, give us a call at (215) 646-6334 or click the link below to fill out an online form.

Ask A Dental Question Or Schedule An Appointment

Sources:

  • Uncovering a Link Between Inflammation and Heart Disease: Immune cells can exacerbate heart failure. A new study reveals a potential way to stop them, Laura Castañón Tufts Now, February 1, 2021.
  • Higashi Y, Goto C et al. Department of Cardiovascular Physiology and Medicine, Hiroshima University, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Hiroshima, Japan. 2009 Oct;206(2):604-10.
  • Significant association between score of periodontal disease and coronary artery disease. Oe Y.et al. Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kumamoto University, Honjo, Kumamoto, Japan.2009 Mar;24(2):103-7.
  • Tooth loss, systemic inflammation, and prevalent stroke among participants in the reasons for geographic and racial difference in stroke study. You Z et al. Department of Biostatistics, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 2009 Apr;203(2):615-9. Epub 2008 Aug 8.
  • Catherine Okoro, Ph.D., epidemiologist in the Division of Adult Community Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015.
  • Gum Disease Linked to Heart Disease, Tim Friend, USA Today.
  • Rydén L, Buhlin K, Ekstrand E, et al. Periodontitis increases the risk of a first myocardial infarction: A report from the PAROKRANK study. 2016.
  • Jeffcoat et al. Impact of periodontal therapy on general health: evidence from insurance data for five systemic conditions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;47(2):166-74.
  • Gum Disease and Heart Disease. American Academy of Periodontology. Dec. 2016. http://www.perio.org/consumer/heart_disease

Tags: dental and medical health, dental health, dental medical health connection, dental hygiene

National Dental Hygiene Month

Posted by Chris Raines on Oct 25, 2018 5:43:43 PM

Veteran Dental Hygienist, Julia, chats with patient during oral hygiene appointment

October is National Dental Hygiene Month.

Dental hygienists provide a crucial role in oral health by helping you to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Our hygienists work with you and your dentist to maintain a healthy mouth.

Julia has been treating patients as a Registered Dental Hygienist at Pi Dental Center for 22 years. When asked why she chose this career, Julia acknowledged, “Dental hygiene is rewarding. I see immediate results. Most patients come in for dental hygiene visits twice a year. We create friendships. When we treat patients, we don’t just look at the teeth. We look at the person as a whole. Other issues in a person’s personal life can spill over and impact their dental health. We look at those issues to help us determine the best way to address problems.”

The mouth is a window to the rest of the body that allows the dental team to detect early signs and symptoms of systemic disease. A dental hygienist is often the first person to notice changes in the mouth.

The connection between oral health and medical health has been well documented. Dolly, a dental hygienist at Pi Dental Center, is proud to be part of Pi Dental Center’s clinical team. Dolly maintains, “With the correlation between coronary heart disease and gum inflammation, I value my role as a hygienist more than ever.” She continues, “I feel that a dental hygienist is of vital importance to the patient’s general overall health.”

Oral hygiene education is a vital part of a hygienist’s role in treating patients. The number of people with missing teeth and periodontal disease in the United States attests to the need for oral hygiene education. According to the American College of Prosthodontics, 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth and about 40 million Americans are missing all of their teeth. American Academy of Periodontology reports as of 2010 approximately 64.7 million American adults, have some form of periodontal disease.

Hygienists teach patients correct brushing and flossing techniques, discuss medical/dental health issues, recommend appropriate oral hygiene products and design individualized oral hygiene regimen for each patient. They provide smoking cessation counseling which helps to prevent periodontal disease and oral cancer.

Hygienists play a crucial role in communications between the patient and dentist. They are ardent advocates for their patient’s health and well-being. Julia states, “Some patients are fearful about expressing their dental health problems to the dentist. But they will talk to their hygienist.”

At Pi Dental Center, our whole team, including our dental hygiene department, has your best interest in mind. Call us to schedule your next visit (215-646-6334) or click the link below to contact us.

Schedule an Appointment

Tags: Dental Hygienist, dental hygiene, oral health, prevent tooth decay

Can’t Fool Santa or the Dentist

Posted by Chris Raines on Dec 20, 2016 4:18:41 PM

naughty-nice.jpgHe's making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
And he knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake


We’ve all heard the Christmas song, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespi.  This Christmas classic, first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934, cautions children to behave because Santa can magically perceive whether they are naughty or nice.

20161220_100703 copy.jpgSome people try to hide their dental habits from the dentist.  They try to hide their irregular and haphazard oral hygiene by brushing their teeth vigorously right before their dental appointment.  Oral hygiene habits cannot be concealed. Built up stain and food impaction are visible tell-tale signs of poor dental hygiene.  Poor dental hygiene will eventually result in tooth decay, cavities, gum disease tooth loss and can even affect overall physical health.

The dentists at Pi Dental Center recommend brushing after every meal, cleaning between the teeth with dental floss, water flosser or Proxabrush and scheduling oral hygiene cleanings and examination at least twice a year.  Oral hygiene instruction can help patients improve their oral hygiene techniques.

Pi Dental Center’s dentists and hygienists are your partners in dental health, helping you to make sure that your teeth are as healthy and attractive as they can be. Call to schedule your dental hygiene visit.

Ask A Dental Question Or Schedule An Appointment

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Tags: dentist, oral hygiene, dental health, dental hygiene