Do your teeth really affect your heart, such as with "periodontal disease"?

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Yes, your teeth can affect your heart. I have an example for you. Years ago I was told I had a heart murmur. A few years after that, at a routine dentist visit, I was asked if I had any heart conditions and I told them I had been told that I had a heart murmur. Because of this, they refused to clean my teeth. They said that if they cleaned my teeth, bacteria could get into my blood supply, go to my heart, and cause a very serious infection. Before they would clean my teeth I had to see my family physician and he ordered a test that would detect any heart conditions that I had. I had the test and my heart was perfectly normal. Then the dentist agreed to clean my teeth.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Outside of the cause and effect relationships described above, a person with poor oral hygiene and health in general also has a greater tendency (though this is by no means absolute) to neglect other areas of his/her health, such as proper diet, weight management, and exercise, which can also lead to heart problems over the long term.  So one can say that periodontal disease is a potential indicator of a pattern of poor health habits that is therefore indirectly linked to heart problems, as well as diabetes, obesity, and even various cancers.

This would be similar to IV Drug use indirectly leading to someone acquire the HIV/AIDS virus.  The drug use itself didn't give them the virus, but it is part of a pattern of risky behaviors that makes it much more likely to happen.

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dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Dental health can have an impact on cardiovascular health. When periodontal disease is present a complicating factor is usually inflammation and infection. Because the oral cavity is highly vascular these bacterial pathogens can travel to distant structures and cause septicemia. Any anatomical location can be adversely affected, including the heart.

When bacterial pathogens travel to the myocardium the bacteria generally colonize the heart valves. This results in a endocarditis, the pathogens can also become systemic. Endocarditis is a serious bacterial infection of the endocardium that requires specific intravenous antibiotic therapy to eradicate the pathogens. Left untreated, the endocarditis can affect cardiac filling times and cardiac output.

A common situation is when a person knows they have mitral valve prolapse, MVP. Most dental questionnaires ask about this condition and if present, prophylactic antibiotic therapy will be prescribed at the time of any dental work or procedure.

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crmhaske | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Absolutely!  The blood vessels that run through your gums have a one way street to your heart.  If you develop an infection deep in your gums, and it is left untreated for a duration of time the infection can enter your blood stream and lead to atherosclerosis.  Research has also shown that there is a link between how often a person brushes their teeth and their risk for developing heart disease.

The link between chronic inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease, and cardiovascular disease has been undebated for some time now.  The inflammation causes the homeostatic responses to be raised, and your lipid metabolism to be disturbed; two things that can lead to heart disease.

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