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Good Oral Hygiene Protects Your Heart

  • 03 Nov 2021
  • 3 mins

The heart is at the center of our circulatory system, which consists of a network of blood vessels, arteries, veins, and capillaries. Blood transports oxygen and nutrients to all parts of our body. With that said, it is not the only thing it transports. Pathogens, which are bacteria, can also be transported from one point of the body via these pathways back to the heart. It includes those that come from our gums.

In this article, we asked Senior Oral and Maxillofacial Consultant Prof Yeo Jin Fei to discuss the connection between our dental health and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).

Causal link between Oral Health and Heart Health

More studies in recent years have emerged to point to the link between our gum and heart health. Among the published works1, one shows that undetected tooth infections can increase one’s risk of CVD by two to three times. 

When asked if there is indeed a link, Prof Yeo commented that it is true.

“We have seen cases where bacteria in the gums were detected in blood vessels in other parts of the body which cause inflammation,” Prof Yeo shared.

A 2018 study2 of almost a million people in Korea showed that besides age, there is a correlation between oral bacterial infections associated with coronary heart disease. In addition, having gum disease increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28%, according to a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden3.

Other than improper brushing of your teeth, diabetes, smoking, and poor nutrition also constitute poor oral hygiene, similar to the causes of heart diseases. While it is unclear whether one actually causes the other, sufficient evidence in the study points to the causal link between oral health and the heart.

Keep Up Your Dental Appointment

People with heart disease have special needs for dental care, and it is common for them to be concerned about dental work putting them at any heart risk. However, Prof Yeo dismissed the claim and reassured them that it is still safe to go for dental health procedures.

“The general teeth cleaning services are fine. However, for oral surgery such as tooth extractions, we would usually prescribe antibiotics to patients to prevent any possible inflammation,” Prof Yeo revealed.

Like all other medical procedures, patients’ medical history will also be noted and considered before dental work begins.

Suppose a patient’s condition is more severe and requires additional review. In that case, the dentist may even work with the patient’s cardiologist to determine the treatment suitability and available options.

Regardless of the risk factor to any disease or condition, one must always maintain good oral health. It is a good practice to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly. In addition, all healthy adults are encouraged to visit the dentist regularly for check-ups or cleaning every six months.

[1] Liljestrand J, Mäntylä P, Paju S, Buhlin K, Kopra K, Persson G et al. Association of Endodontic Lesions with Coronary Artery Disease. J DENT RES. 2016;:0022034516660509

[2] Batty, G. D. Keum, J. J., Mok, Y. Lee, S. Lee, S. J. Back, J. H., Sun, H. J. 2018. Oral health and later coronary heart disease: Cohort study of one million people. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Apr 25 (6): 598-605. Doi: 10.1177/2047487318759112.

[3] Rydén L, Buhlin K, Ekstrand E, et al. Periodontitis increases the risk of a first myocardial infarction: A report from the PAROKRANK study. 2016.

Contributed by

Dr. Yeo Jin Fei
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
omfs@farrer park
Farrer Park Hospital