Cardiologists and periodontists, the dentists who treat gum disease, have long debated if there is a link between oral health and heart disease. It’s true that people with poor oral health have more heart attacks. However, people with poor oral health may not have other good health habits such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and/or not smoking.

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Many studies have shown a connection between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease. Research suggests that periodontitis may increase the risk of developing heart disease. There is also a strong correlation between diabetes and heart disease.

Gum disease is one of the diseases “where the body may be in a sort of continual state of inflammation, and this seems to be a very powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease,” said Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and professor or medicine emeritus at University of California San Francisco.

The gums become inflamed due to the bacteria that causes gingivitis and periodontal disease. This same bacteria can get into the bloodstream causing the arteries to build up plaque and harden as well as tiny blood clots to form.

Recently, researchers found after studying 682 people’s brushing habits that oral hygiene guidelines increased the risk of having or dying from a heart attack, heart failure or stroke by three-fold.

A separate study published last October in the AHA journal Hypertension found that gum disease appears to increase blood pressure and it can also negatively interfere with hypertension medication. (1)