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An unhealthy mouth can lead to heart disease

03 May, 2011

You’re probably aware that smoking, being overweight and having high cholesterol or high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing heart disease, but what you may not know is that looking after your teeth and gums plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Emerging scientific evidence shows that people with gum disease are at a greater risk of developing heart disease. A study released last year found that a person with fewer than 10 natural teeth is seven times more likely to die of coronary disease than someone with more than 25 of their own natural teeth.

According to Professor Hanny Calache, Director of Clinical Leadership, Education and Research at Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV), "Oral diseases and heart disease share common risk factors including diet, hygiene, smoking, alcohol use, stress and trauma.

"The most common oral diseases are gum diseases and tooth decay. Both these diseases are largely preventable if identified and treated early. But if these conditions remain untreated, both will eventually lead to tooth loss."

So how do oral diseases affect the heart? One explanation is that the bacteria that causes periodontal disease enters the blood stream through the inflamed gums.

The bacteria then attach themselves to the inner walls of the blood vessels contributing to the formation of blood clots. Another possibility is that inflammation caused by periodontal disease produces certain products that damage the inner linings of blood vessels making them susceptible to fats, bacteria and other harmful products.

The accumulation of these products and blood clot formation can block normal blood flow and restrict nutrients and oxygen reaching the heart.

Associate Professor Ivan Darby, Periodontist at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne says it is essential that people realise that dental health impacts on general health and wellbeing, "There is a definite link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. It is essential that oral health is seen as an integral aspect of general health, and dental care as a component of overall health care."

Oral health is not only linked to cardiovascular disease. Evidence shows that poor oral health can also be associated with pre-term and low weight births, cancers and respiratory diseases.

The good news is that you can maintain good oral health by following these seven tips:

  1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat, fish and wholegrains.
  2. Avoid saturated fats in your diet.
  3. Limit sugary foods and drinks to meal times.
  4. Brush your teeth and gums twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste.
  5. Visit a dentist or other oral health professional regularly.
  6. Drink plenty of fluoridated tap water.
  7. Avoid smoking.

For more information on how to look after your oral health go to the Dental Health Services Victoria website –

National Heart Week is from the 1- 7 May 2011 During Heart Week 2011, the Heart Foundation will be raising awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of Australian women. Visit to find out more.

Source: Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV)

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