The link between gum health and heart disease

Claiming around 610,000 lives each year, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. Did you know that research has found a link between this deadly disease and the health of your gums?

Treating gum disease can go a long way in lessening the impact of coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1 Patients who were treated for gum disease have lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations for CAD.

Does gum disease cause heart disease?

Despite the link between gum disease and heart disease, it’s not clear whether one actually causes the other, according to the American Heart Association.

The two conditions have some of the same risk factors, including smoking, poor nutrition and diabetes.

But even in non-smoking populations, researchers have found a strong correlation between the oral condition and heart disease. One hypothesis is that bacteria from the oral cavity spread throughout the body, worsening other inflammatory conditions, like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

Prevention is the best medicine

Regular healthy habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And if you already have one or both of these conditions, these strategies can help reduce their impact.

  • Brush and floss regularly. To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
  • Choose a healthy diet, rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce or eliminate sugar and starches.
  • Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Even smokeless tobacco can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.
  • Visit the dentist for regular cleanings and exams. Your dentist can identify signs of systemic illness and catch gum disease early on. Always tell your dentist your medical history, current conditions and any medications you’re taking.

Related reading

Last updated: June 2016

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