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Your heart health starts in your mouth!

To-date, we've had 
2 primary reasons for visiting a dentist:

  • Keeping teeth clean & healthy (and maybe that included straightening or whitening too)
  • Addressing dental pain of some sort (i.e., you had no choice but to go to your dentist!)

Now, there are 2 additional (and even more compelling) reasons:

  • To ensure your mouth has a positive impact on your overall health
  • To mitigate inflammation

Read on to learn how and why…

By now, most of us understand that good health is contingent on having a healthy gut, and when you think about your mouth as the gateway to your gut, it makes perfect sense that your mouth needs to be healthy, too.  Your oral microbiome – the good and bad bacteria in your mouth — is directly linked to the bacteria in your digestive system.  Therefore, “your oral health has downstream effects in virtually every other system in the body…what happens in the mouth, happens in the body” (1).

What is periodontal disease and how does it have a systemic impact?
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum (gingival) tissue and the bone supporting the teeth.  The inflammatory process is initiated by oral bacteria, yeast, viruses, and their byproducts, eliciting an immune system response that can result in inflammation.
Research activity in periodontal medicine has grown exponentially since the early 2000s; there are now over 57 systemic conditions linked with periodontal diseases, including:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s (2)
  • pulmonary disorders
  • …and many more

The common link is inflammation (3). And, remember, it’s a two-way street; periodontal disease is a risk factor for the aforementioned diseases, and vice versa - these systemic diseases are considered risk factors for periodontitis.

But how does it actually impact the rest of the body?
As Douglas Thompson, DDS of Integrative Oral Medicine, explained at our Institute for Functional Medicine annual conference earlier this year: 
“Bacteria live in the crevices (pockets) around the teeth. They can enter the bloodstream through the gum and then travel through the body.  And, as the pocket(s) around the teeth get deeper, the environment supports the growth of different species of bacteria, just like different fish live at different depths of the ocean…and the disease-producing capabilities of the bacteria increases as the depth of the pocket(s) increases.”

How common is periodontal disease?
It’s very common; according to data from ‘09 & ‘10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycle (4):

  • > 47 % of Americans over 30 years old have periodontal disease
  • 70% of Americans over 65 years old have periodontal disease

How close is the connection between cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease?
According to Houston (5), it's shockingly close:

  • There’s a 25% increased risk of cardiovascular disease if/when periodontitis is present 
  • Men < 50 years old with periodontal disease have a 72% increased risk of CVD
  • There’s 2 x more likelihood of a stroke if/when periodontitis is present

Good news: There are practical steps you can take to minimize your risk:

  • Prioritize your metabolic health
    You’ve heard me mention this before…first and foremost, this involves managing your blood sugar levels. 
  • Consume an anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient-rich diet
    Fill at least ½ your plate with leafy greens, crunchy vegetables alongside lean, clean proteins and high-quality fats.
  • Stay well hydrated
    According to Burhenne (1), a dry mouth is a perfect home for bacterial overgrowth. 

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from personalized advice about how to be proactive about heart health, please don’t hesitate to reach out for further guidance.


(1) Burhenne, M. (2020).  What exactly is the mouth-body connection? 

(2) Olsen, I. (2021).  Porphyromonas gingivalis-induced neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease.  Frontiers in Neuroscience, Vol 15. 

(3) Monsarrat, P., et al (2016).  Clinical research activity in periodontal medicine: a systematic mapping of trial registers.  Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 43, 5, 390-400.

(4) Eke, P. I., et al (2010).  Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010.  Journal of Dental Research, 91 (10). 

(5) Houston, M. C. (2020).  Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine.  Wolters Kluwer