Can Brushing Your Teeth Keep Your Heart Healthy?

A woman brushes her teeth in the bathroom.

It's a well-known fact that regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups can help keep your mouth healthy. But can good oral hygiene really play a role in keeping your heart healthy, too?

While the precise nature of the relationship between oral health and heart health is still being investigated, the American Heart Association reported in its journal Hypertension in 2018 that patients taking medication for high blood pressure are more likely to benefit from the medication if their teeth are well cared for.1

The journal analyzed medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure, finding that those with healthier gums have lower blood pressure and responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications compared with people who have periodontal disease (gum disease). The researchers said their results were consistent with previous research linking low-grade oral inflammation with blood-vessel damage and cardiovascular risk.

Symptoms of gum disease

If you have symptoms of periodontal disease, see your dentist soon for treatment.

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth come together when you bite down2

Inflammation may be the link

Periodontal disease and heart disease share risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes. Both also contribute to inflammation in the body. And although shared risk factors only explain why both may occur together, there may also be other evidence that suggests an independent association between the 2 diseases.3

Independent researchers, as well as government agencies, continue to investigate this link. Some studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth that are involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream. When they do, they can cause an elevation in a certain protein which can, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.4

What you can do to help avoid gum disease:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss or use another between-the-tooth cleaner daily to remove plaque and bits of food from areas your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Your dentist or hygienist may recommend using a germ-fighting mouthwash or other products.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. If plaque stays on your teeth, it hardens into tartar. Professional cleanings are the only way to remove tartar, which traps bacteria along the gumline.5

Sources:

  1. “Poor oral health linked to higher blood pressure, worse blood pressure control,” American Heart Association, last accessed Sept. 5, 2019 https://newsroom.heart.org/news/poor-oral-health-linked-to-higher-blood-pressure-worse-blood-pressure-control, opens new window,
  2. “Gum Disease,” American Dental Association, last accessed Sept. 5, 2019, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gum-disease, opens new window,
  3. “Oral health & risk for CV Disease,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed Sept. 5, 2019, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/risk-factors/hic-oral-health-cardiovascular-diseases, opens new window,
  4. “Oral health & risk for CV Disease.”
  5. “Gum Disease.”

Tags