Why Healthy Teeth Matter More Than You Think

Oral Health Can Impact Your Heart Health

I think it’s relatively clear that a poor diet can affect the health of your heart and influence the risk of future heart disease. What about the effects of oral health upon the risks of heart disease, is there a connection?

We all know the association between the sugar intake and the health of your teeth and gums, but did you know that sugar-laden junk food can also increase your risk of developing a dangerous form of heart disease?

Recently, a report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in the U.K. indicated that chronic consumption of sugar in foods and soda drinks can precipitate the development of tooth and gum disease which has become so prevalent.

This type of periodontal disease often leads to the inflammation and infection of the gums with corresponding damage done to the teeth and underlying bone in the jaw. This condition commonly accounts for abscess formation, tooth loss, and halitosis.

Chronic inflammation like this can really be a problem for your arteries and most people do not make the connection. However, it has been known for some time that chronic inflammation caused from continual bacterial invasion can often lead to arterial damage.

The mechanism is quite simple and involves the direct response of your inner artery walls to the effects of the immune system and other chemicals secreted which encourage the inflammatory response.

This response is produced so your tissues can heal properly. However, when the inflammation is continual and chronic, the inflammation can spread to other tissues in your body including the coronary arteries which supply your heart muscle with a continual supply of blood and oxygen.

Sustained inflammation causes damage to the sensitive linings of these arteries and often times takes the form of free radical generation.

These free radicals damage artery tissues causing cholesterol, calcium and fibrin molecules to form a plaque inside the artery in an attempt to heal the damage. Later, blood clots can also form inside the artery and the artery will lose its ability to relax allowing blood to flow freely.

The end result of this type of chronic inflammation is atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries which can potentially block the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle resulting in angina and a potential heart attack.

“As well as having high levels of fats and salt, junk foods often contain a great deal of sugar and the effect this has on oral health may be an important additional mechanism by which junk food elevates risk of CVD,” said Dr. A. Rashid, author of the report. “Among different types of junk food, soft drinks have raised particular concerns and are the main source of free sugar for many individuals.”

But the damage of these sugary products on oral health, which lead to other more serious health concerns, is detrimental.

“The U.K. population should be encouraged to reduce fizzy drink intake and improve oral hygiene. Reducing sugar consumption and managing dental problems early could help prevent heart problems later in life.”

These are important comments which equally apply to those of us living in North America where the consumption of sugar from junk food and soda is at an all-time high. There is enough incentive to change your diet and take much better care of your oral health as there can be potentially disastrous consequences for not doing so.

“Junk Food, Poor Oral Health Increase Risk of Premature Heart Disease,” ScienceDaily web site, December 2, 2013;http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202105301.htm,last accessed Dec. 3, 2013.