Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart?
Though the link between dental health and heart health is not completely clear, experts say it’s important to take care of both.
The Consensus: No Consensus
Although the report was a consensus of sorts, the link is far from definitive, experts say.
"At this point, there is a consensus that we are still unaware of solid science to show a direct link [between heart health and oral health] with the exception of two areas," Low says. These are:
- Bacteria found in both health problems are similar. "The bacteria we find in gum disease we also find in blood vessels that are going through atherosclerosis," Low says. "There are several types."
- Inflammation is another common denominator for both diseases. When people have moderate to severe gum disease, their levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that rises during whole-body inflammation, increase. CRP levels are also used to assess a person's risk of a heart attack.
Advice for a Healthy Heart and Gums
Bonow and Low say health-conscious people should take care of oral health and heart health. ''There are all kinds of reasons why you want people to take care of their heart health and their dental hygiene too, " Bonow says. "But it doesn't mean taking care of one is going to prevent the other."
The joint report also made these recommendations:
- Dentists should tell patients with moderate to severe gum disease that they may have an increased risk for heart and blood vessel problems. People who have moderate to severe gum disease and a known risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking, should consider getting a medical evaluation if it's been one year or longer since their last one.
- Physicians and their dentists should work together to focus on reducing heart disease risk and ensuring good periodontal care for patients with heart disease and gum disease.
- Patients with heart disease who also have signs or symptoms of gum disease (but have not yet been diagnosed with it) or a high CRP level should get a periodontal evaluation.