Why your heart and oral health are closer than you think

With Valentine's Day falling mid-month, February is a great time to focus on matter of the heart. While this usually means spending time with your nearest and dearest, it's also an ideal opportunity to think about the health of your heart and the different lifestyles factors that can affect it. Did you know that your oral health and heart health are linked?

Studies are increasingly finding connections between serious gum disease (periodontal disease) and heart disease. Research is ongoing and scientists have suggested a few different theories; one being that the bacteria responsible for gum disease could be passing into the bloodstream and reacting with already-damaged areas in the heart. Another theory is that the oral bacteria could be stimulating the immune system and producing an inflammatory response, which worsens inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as in the heart.

While these links continue to be found, awareness of the impact of oral health on general health is growing. According to recent YouGov research* conducted for Simplyhealth, 83% of adults agree that poor oral health can have a significant impact on overall health. However, only 27% of respondents think poor oral health can be linked to heart disease, showing that awareness of specific diseases and their relationship to oral health is still relatively low.

“It’s clear that taking good care of your oral health can have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing, including your heart health,” says Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth, the experts behind Denplan payment plans. “It’s not as simplistic as saying that brushing your teeth will completely prevent cardiovascular disease but, while research continues to find the links between oral health and heart disease, it’s important to be mindful of your oral health and how it plays a role in your general health.

“If you are at risk of heart disease or have any other wider health issues, it's important to have a thorough oral health routine and visit the dentist and hygienist regularly. Always let your dentist know about your health history and current conditions and any medications you may be taking. Additionally, if you already have heart disease, it’s especially important that you take extra care with your oral hygiene and speak to your dental team about the most effective ways for you to take care of your teeth and gums, as well as regular dental visits.”

Henry’s advice to lower your risk of heart disease by taking good care your mouth and body:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth every day – this can be with floss, interdental brushes or water/air flossers
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks
  • Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly for check-ups and cleaning
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and avoid foods with high levels of saturated fats and salt
  • Stay active, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Give up smoking
  • Keep an eye on your alcohol consumption

For more information on how to keep your heart healthy, visit the British Heart Foundation

*YouGov survey conducted online on behalf of Simplyhealth Professionals. Total sample size was 5,068 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken from 24th January to 2nd February 2017. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Valentines and oral health