The Link Between Oral Hygiene and Heart Health

As dentists have told their patients countless times, better care must be taken to one’s teeth and gums. Most people agree that oral hygiene is important, but it isn’t usually at the top of the list when it comes to health necessities. In fact, it is often overshadowed by the maintenance of many other organs and body parts. However, oral hygiene should no longer be overlooked. Although no formal scientific conclusions have been reached, there is firm evidence that presents a link exists between one’s oral hygiene and heart health.

Dr. David Friedman recalls a scare he once experienced involving heart disease. Luckily, he is still alive to tell his story today, due to the fact a dentist was able to save his life (Friedman 2018). Dr Friedman recalls waking up every day full of life and vigor (2018). He describes himself as a man full of constant zest and energy, from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed (Friedman 2018). However, about a year ago, Friedman says this all changed (2018). He began waking up and going to bed tired (Friedman 2018). He started having headeaches, and found it extremely difficult to concentrate (Friedman 2018).

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After going to his doctor and getting a full physical done, Friedman realized he had high blood pressure. This astounded him, because he was a nutrionist; eating only healhty foods and frequently exercising (Friedman 2018). Then, he got his blood test back, indicating that he had an increased amount of C-reactive protein (CRP) (Friedman 2018). CRP is created by the liver, and increases when there is inflammation in the body (Friedman 2018). CRP levels are extremely significant, and are considered one of the main signs of a stroke or heart attack (Friedman 2018). Research actually suggests that CRP is a better predictor of cardivascular risk than cholestoerol (Friedman 2018).

One study, known as the the Physicians Health Study, involved 18,000 doctors that seemed to be pretty healhty (Friedman 2018). This study found that elevated levels of CRP leads to a 300% increase in the risk of a heart attack (Friedman 2018). As Dr. Friedman explains “Anything above 3.0 is considered a very high risk for heart attack and stroke.” (2018). His CRP was at 9.8 mg/L! Dr. David Friedman’s blood test also showed that he had increased levels of white blood cells, indicating that his body was likely fighting off an infection. (Friedman 2018). There are multiple theories about the anatomical relationship between the mouth and heart. Some scientists argue that there’s an obvious connection between the two, while others mark it off as sheer coincidence.

Robert Shmerling, MD, a professor at Harvard Medical School, analyzes the multiple theories. The first theory he discusses supports the idea that a link exists between oral hygiene and heart health (Shmerling 2018; Barzali 2017; Sandilands 2018). First, research has proven that people with gum disease have a greater risk of heart disease than someone with healthy gums (Sandilands 2018). Sandilands (2018) says, “Oral health and heart disease are connected by the spread of bacteria – and other germs – from your mouth to other parts of your body through the bloodstream.” The thinking behind this is infectious bacteria that cause periodontitis and gingivitis are able to travel to blood vessels throughout the body (Shmerling 2018; Barzali 2017). This may lead to inflammation of blood vessels, and other damages such as heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots (Shmerling 2018).

This is supported due to the fact that oral bacteria remains have been found within atherosclerotic blood vessels in locations far from the mouth. (Shmerling 2018). This furthers the claim that bacteria found in the mouth is able to spread throughout the rest of the body. Sandilands (2018) analyzes other research done by Dr. Benico Barzilai (2017) which supports the previous claim presented by Robert Shmerling MD. She says, “The bacteria [from the mouth] can also migrate into your bloodstream causing elevated C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. (Sandilands 2018 et al Barzilai 2017) This can increase your risk of heart disease and strokes (Sandilands 2018 et al Barzilai 2017). Another theory is that the body’s immune response is the main problem, causing vascular damage throughout the body, especially in the heart and brain (Shmerling 2018).

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The Link Between Oral Hygiene and Heart Health. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from