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The mouth-heart connection: 3 things to know

Young, beautiful woman smiling, brushing back hair - Gum disease and dental health linked to heart health
Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of heart attack.

We’ve all heard that diet and exercise are keys to protecting our heart health. But it might surprise you to learn having a healthy mouth also impacts your ticker.

Gum disease is linked to heart attacks

“If you have gum disease, your risk of having your first heart attack can go up by 28 percent according to one study,” said Dr. Tyler Berkey, a Marshfield Clinic dentist. “That’s a pretty significant number, showing a strong link between heart health and oral health.”

Berkey said if you have active gum disease, you may experience inflammation and will have more harmful bacteria in your mouth, which can get into your bloodstream.

“Gums are very vascular. There’s a lot of blood running through them,” Berkey said. “If you have bacteria that get into the bloodstream or digestive track, it can trigger inflammation and negatively affect other parts of your body.”

While it is clear gum disease and heart issues are linked, Berkey said more research is needed to determine cause and effect and see exactly why the connection exists.

Take it easy on the sugar

Good oral hygiene – daily brushing and flossing – is one of the keys to avoiding gum disease. Berkey added that having regular appointments with your dentist is important. He also suggested staying away from a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.

“Bacteria in your mouth mainly feed off of sugar/carbohydrates, causing bacterial growth and acid as a byproduct,” Berkey said. “That kind of diet greatly contributes to active gum disease and cavities.”

Berkey also suggests staying away from smoking as it is a major contributor to gum disease.

Make sure your gums are in good shape. Make an appointment to see your dental team today.

3 responses to “The mouth-heart connection: 3 things to know”

  1. Kathleen Bertolino-Jolin

    My gums are fine but I "chew the sides of my tongue" and it hurts. Any heart effects doing that?

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Kathleen. Dr. Berkey is not aware of any effects to the heart due to biting your tongue. He does suggest asking your dentist about it at your next appointment.


      1. Kathy Jolin

        Thank you Kirsten. I think it is an anxiety reaction.

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