Teeth and heart health



A client recently asked me about oral health. Well, I’m obviously not a dentist, but was happy to pass on advice and information that I was aware of. After all, our oral health is part of our overall health, and can affect many aspects of our well being- not just our ability to eat, talk and enjoy food.

Consuming the right nutrients and looking after our overall health and well being is essential if we are trying to stay fit and active into our older years!

I have never particularly liked my teeth, but they are all mine and have served me (fairly!) well so far.

Risks associated with gum disease

Our oral health is very important, for many reasons, but many people are not aware of the links between poor oral health, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia…to name just a few.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only 1 in 6 people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only 1 in 3 is aware of the heart disease link.”

The Health Risk of Gum Disease: NHS.

Lets start with plaque and tartar- many people confuse the two.

What are Biofilm and Plaque?

‘Biofilm’ and ‘plaque’ are the thick, sticky, film that will coat our teeth, gums and tongue. Biofilms are ‘microscopic communities’ of bacteria, whereas plaque is when a biofilm becomes large enough to be visible to the naked eye. It maybe white, yellow, brown or colourless. It will be made up of saliva, fluids, bacteria, bits of food, dead cells, and other digestible matter (such as sugars, proteins and carbohydrates). The mouth contains good and bad bacteria, but we need the right amounts of each to help prevent problems such as bad breath, cavities and gum disease.

Our mouth and this biofilm are the perfect breading ground for bacteria which do not require oxygen, as this biofilm coats everything, providing an environment free of oxygen.

It can develop in as little as four hours, which is why brushing your teeth at least twice a day, ideally for at least two minutes, is an absolute must!

Plaque that is not removed can lead to inflammation and irritation of the gums, periodontal disease, and even affect the bone which supports the teeth.

That being said, even proper brushing and flossing cannot always remove all plaque and biofilm. When this occurs it will develop into tartar. This hardened and calcified plaque will attach itself to the tooth’s enamel, often below the gum line.

What is Tartar?

Tartar is plaque that has hardened and calcified. Tartar will give plaque and biofilm even more surface area to adhere to, and unfortunately requires removal by a professional (dentist/hygienist).

Tartar is more noticeable than plaque as it is usually yellow or brown in colour, and may sit proud/prominently on the teeth when it accumulates; but as mentioned above, can sit hidden below the gum line. People vary in their susceptibility to tartar build up.

Now the interesting stuff!

So, keeping those pearly whites, pearly white is essential- not just to give you that winning smile!

While some cardiologists and periodontists still debate the link between gum health and heart disease, most do not, and more and more research is showing a clear and definite link.

So the thinking is:

  • There is an inflammatory process apparent in the development of atherosclerosis  and also in the development of gum disease.
  • Several published studies have concluded that gum disease is in itself a risk factor for developing heart disease.
  • Several studies also concluded it was a risk factor in other diseases of the blood vessels such as stroke (see above).
  • Bacteria found in both health conditions (gum disease and atherosclerosis) are similar.
  • A protein that is raised when inflammation is present (C-Reactive protein), for example in moderate to severe gum disease, is used as a measure of a persons risk of heart attack. Dental Health and Heart Health, is there a connection?

The NHS is quite certain of the likely risks and connection, and states: “In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up properly. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time”. (Link above).

So please see a professional if you are concerned about your oral health and, please look after your teeth.

…and as Pam Ayres once said:

“Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.
I wish I’d been that much more willin’
When I had more tooth there than fillin’
To give up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers,
And to buy something else with me shillin’.
When I think of the lollies I licked
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.
My mother, she told me no end,
‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.
Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin’
And pokin’ and fussin’
Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!
If I’d known I was paving the way
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fillin’s,
Injections and drillin’s,
I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.
So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine
In these molars of mine.
‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’
How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s methey are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.”

teeth pic


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