Heart Health & Oral Health

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States? In honor of Heart Health Month, Slate is highlighting some of the ways you can protect your heart and prevent heart disease. Most of us know the basics of how to keep our hearts healthy. This includes habits like regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, avoiding tobacco use, and getting enough sleep. A lesser-known preventative measure is maintaining a healthy mouth and more specifically, avoiding gum disease. According to Penn Medicine, “Research points to a link between gum disease and inflammation that can precede heart attacks, strokes, and sudden vascular events.”  

My next-door neighbor and golf buddy is a heart surgeon, but not just any heart surgeon. His practice is almost completely focused on preventative care. Though I was quite disappointed by the lack of articles exploring the connection between oral health and heart health, he constantly talks about how the health of his patients’ mouths is one of his most pressing concerns. Similarly, I often have patients who come into my practice because their surgeon is requesting a clearance letter for surgery. This means that if there is an infection of any kind in the mouth, the surgeon wants that infection cleared up and eliminated before he is willing to move forward with the surgery. This serves as further evidence that your oral health plays an important role throughout the body, and your surgeon knows it.

So, why is oral health so important when it comes to our general health, more specifically our heart health? The answer is actually quite simple. Other than injecting something directly into a vein or artery with a needle, one of the fastest ways to get something into our bloodstream is through the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in our gum tissue. Maybe you’ve seen a movie or TV show where drug addicts are shown rubbing cocaine into their gums. They do this because it gets into their blood and they’re able to get that high as quickly as possible. This means that substances both good and bad can enter your bloodstream rapidly when absorbed through the gums. 

When even the slightest case of gum disease sets in, the gums become swollen and red. As this happens, the blood vessels in the gums dilate (become wider) and their ends become fragile, which is why swollen gums bleed while flossing. And while the dilated blood vessels are still tiny to the naked eye, they’re huge when compared to the size of oral bacteria. This means that individuals with gum disease have a higher concentration of harmful oral bacteria circulating in their blood to cause damage to organs like the heart. 

The bacteria in our mouths can be separated into two groups, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic bacteria thrive in an environment with oxygen and anaerobic bacteria thrive in an environment with no oxygen. Most areas of our mouth have oxygen. One of the only exceptions is the pocket around each tooth between the tooth and gums. If we are proactive with our brushing and (more importantly) our flossing, we keep that pocket small, which means that the mouth overall is a less ideal environment for anaerobic bacteria. This is a very good thing because the bacteria that do the most harm to our teeth, gums, and other organs, are anaerobic. However, if gum disease is not properly treated, harmful oral bacteria enters the bloodstream and can cause blood vessel inflammation and damage, tiny blood clots, heart valve damage, heart attacks, and strokes. 

So, if you’re intentional about maintaining your overall health, particularly in order to prevent heart disease, you should also be prioritizing your oral health. Products like the Slate Electric Flosser can aid you in this goal by stimulating the gums and making gum disease less likely. Not only does consistent flossing help to ensure a clean smile and healthy gums, it also helps to protect the health of your heart and other organs. If you’re someone who has always struggled to make flossing a part of your daily routine, try out the Slate Electric Flosser. It’s the fastest, easiest, and most effective flossing tool ever created. Trust me. You'll be happy you tried it!

Back to blog