Cardiovascular Disease and Dental Health: The Connection

Ancient Egyptian mummies were found to have suffered from cardiovascular disease. This means that over 3500 years ago, Egyptians were plagued with the same disease as the modern man, atherosclerotic heart disease.  

The autopsies performed on the ancient Egyptians showed plaque adhering to their blood vessels. This is quite remarkable that the same disease has been affecting mankind throughout the ages.  

The diet and lifestyle of the modern man are thought to be the blame of the world’s number one killer, heart disease. However, if heart disease affected the Ancient Egyptians, then other risk factors must be involved in atherosclerotic heart disease besides the Western diet and American lifestyle. 

Thirty-Seven Seconds

Every 37 seconds someone in the United States dies of heart disease complications.

What is Atherosclerotic Heart Disease?

Atherosclerotic heart disease affects the blood vessels due to chronic inflammation.  This inflammation is caused by fatty plaques entering the vessels, mixed with the dysfunction of the vasculature wall. This combination causes the narrowing of the arterial blood vessels.  

When your blood vessels are narrowed, they aren’t able to function properly.  The plaque build-up in the blood vessels is comprised of fat, cholesterol, calcium deposits, and other substances which cause the formations to adhere to the inner blood vessel lining.  

Known risk factors for atherosclerosis and dysfunctioning blood vessels include high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain bacterial infections. Diet and lifestyle choices are strongly correlated to the aforementioned conditions.  

Unfortunately, the typical Western diet is often comprised of red meat, processed foods, high-fat content foods, fried foods, sodas, high sugar content foods, and processed grains. It makes complete sense that a healthier diet and well-rounded active lifestyle can serve as prevention to many conditions that plague the modern man who adheres to the typical Western diet. 

Inflammation Causing More Inflammation

The inflammation associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and other infectious diseases, keeps atherosclerosis in a vicious cycle.  

The inflammation from the fatty plaque build-up causes further inflammation and dysfunction in the blood vessels which causes more narrowing; That means the atherosclerotic disease continues to worsen when the inflammation continues to be present.

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The Garden Hose Analogy

Imagine your garden hose being clogged full of dry mud and caked debris within the inner lining of the hose. When the faucet is turned on, it would not flow at the proper speed. The flow of water would be decreased due to the build-up in the water hose.  

This analogy can describe your arterial portion of the blood supply. When you have atherosclerotic plaque build-up, your blood cannot get to the organs, muscles, skin, bones, and the remainder of your body properly.  

This leads to one portion of atherosclerotic disease. This type of atherosclerotic cardiovascular dysfunction that affects your arterial blood supply, your arteries, is called Peripheral Arterial Disease, PAD. 

 Imagine the garden hose is supplying the water to the rest of the garden, just like the arteries supply blood to the rest of your body.  If the water is unable to reach parts of the garden, things begin to die. Much like the human body, when blood cannot properly reach the organs, ischemia can set in.   

Also Known As…

Atherosclerotic disease can be confusing because it has many different names. Some of these names are medically coined to help describe the disease process.  Whereas the other names have risen in popularity as Americans use these names to describe the symptoms.

There are many different types of cardiovascular diseases. You can see how some of these names became interchangeable as they describe the process of atherosclerosis.   

  1. Atherosclerotic Arterial Occlusive Disease
  2. Peripheral Arterial Disease, PAD
  3. Peripheral Vascular Disease, PVD (this name can refer to vein disease or arterial disease)
  4. Claudication
  5. Intermittent Claudication
  6. Poor Circulation
  7. Vascular Disease
  8. Hardening of the Arteries
  9. Cardiovascular Disease
  10. Coronary Heart Disease
  11. Heart Disease

Atherosclerosis and Cardiovascular Disease

Atherosclerosis is the most common form of cardiovascular disease.  When you think of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart attack, the atherosclerotic plaque build-up is the leading cause of these conditions. 

Certainly, diet plays a huge role in the formation of plaques, but there are other components that need to be looked at with atherosclerotic heart disease.  One component of heart disease that is just now coming into headlines for correlative studies is the connection between oral health and cardiovascular disease.

Recent studies have shown that individuals with poor oral hygiene have higher incidences of cardiovascular disease.

Oral Health Connection

Oral health is connected to your cardiovascular health as with other conditions such as oral cancer, preterm labor, pneumonia, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

The correlation with inflammation from gum disease and the bacteria from dental caries has shown to be connected to many systemic parts of the human body

Senior couple brush teeth

The Link: Poor Oral Hygiene 

Poor oral hygiene is what seems to be related to cardiovascular disease.   The more inflammation with gum disease and the more oral bacteria build-up, the higher likelihood you will see a connection to heart disease.  

As one study showed, when you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, there is a lower risk of heart disease.  

On the other hand, heart disease risk is tripled, for those who do not brush their teeth twice daily.  As previously mentioned the inflammatory conditions of gingivitis are thought to be one of the main culprits.  

Gingivitis and gum disease are preventable with daily habits of good oral hygiene. This means your daily oral hygiene habits can lower your risk of atherosclerotic heart disease. 

The bacterial build-up from cavities and tooth decay is another factor involved in the link between cardiovascular disease and oral health. As mentioned above, the dysfunctioning of the arterial walls has a number of causes.  Infectious microorganisms are one of the reasons arterial walls become dysfunctional. 

The bacteria associated with dental decay can travel through the bloodstream causing inflammation of the blood vessels.

Most oral health diseases related to poor oral hygiene, gingivitis, and dental decay can be prevented.  

When you do not develop good oral hygiene habits, routines that favor poor oral health can easily fall into place.  It is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, use fluoridated water or toothpaste, and if you are unable to brush your teeth, rinse your mouth out with water or chew sugar-free gum. 

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding”  – Leonardo da Vinci

Just remember that the more you understand about your body and how to take care of it, the more power you have to be in control and live a healthier life.  Knowing that oral hygiene is important not only for your mouth but for the rest of your body is an invaluable tool.  

If you think of the above quote by the great Leonardo da Vinci in relation to the knowledge of your own health, then you can see the power and joy in the knowledge of your own healthcare. You are the best advocate for your health.

Now that you see the connection with your cardiovascular health and your oral health, make sure you keep oral hygiene a top priority. We have many oral health tips at VIPcare Dental. 

Don’t Forget These Daily Oral Hygiene Tips

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA approved soft-bristle toothbrush.
  2. Make sure you brush for 2 minutes each time, to ensure you have reached all surfaces and your tongue.
  3. Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  4. Rinse your mouth out with water if you are unable to brush in the middle of the day. 
  5. Chewing sugarless gum can be beneficial if you are unable to brush for a while. 
  6. Wait 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth.
  7. Change your toothbrush a few times a year, as there can be bacteria lurking in the hidden bristles. 
  8. Don’t forget to schedule your dental cleanings at least twice a year.

As with all medical conditions, make sure you talk to your dentist about any heart conditions you have may have.  There are certain conditions that your dentist may want to give you a prophylactic dose of antibiotics prior to your dental cleanings.  Making sure your oral health care provider is aware of all of your medical conditions, will help ensure you are taken care of in the safest way possible. 

Your dentist is here to help you not only with your oral health but to help in any way they can as you strive to maintain or reach a healthy lifestyle.  

Please reach out to us if you have any questions regarding your oral health or if you have any questions regarding the connection between heart disease and your oral hygiene.  

We are here to help and available for any questions or concerns that you may have. Your oral hygiene is important.  At VIPcare Dental, we are a comprehensive dental team. We would love to help, so contact us for an appointment.