A few years ago, researchers began noticing that people with poor oral health also suffered from cardiovascular disease. As more studies focused on the relationship between these two medical conditions, it was discovered that they are linked together. More specifically, poor oral health, including gum disease, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Bacteria May Be the Culprit

While researchers are still trying to confirm the link between oral health and the heart, there are several theories with merit. The most widely known theory is that gum disease and tooth decay expose the blood supply to oral bacteria. Once this bacteria travels from the mouth to the rest of the body via the blood, it can cause damage to the blood vessels. Some of this damage may include the formation of clots, which can lead to stroke or a heart attack. As evidence, researchers point to the presence of oral bacteria in the atherosclerotic blood vessels.

Inflammation May Be to Blame

Another theory that’s gaining momentum is that gum disease and tooth decay prompt the immune system to promote inflammation. While the inflammation typically occurs in the mouth to combat these oral health issues, it can also intensify throughout the body. More inflammation leads to vascular damage to the organs in the body, including the heart and brain. This increase in chronic inflammation is also why people who suffer from obesity often suffer from cardiovascular disease as well.

Perhaps It’s a Coincidence After All

Some researchers suspect that there isn’t a link between oral health and heart health. They believe that both conditions are caused by the same bad habits, such as smoking or a lack of exercise. Since an unhealthy lifestyle affects the body in a variety of ways, it’s difficult to tell whether or not separate health conditions really are linked. Even though research has found a link between these two conditions, some of those same studies revealed that the link nearly disappeared when the subjects’ smoking habits were taken into consideration.

If you’re not visiting your dentist twice per year, scheduling those appointments is the best way to start a better oral care routine. Additionally, consider scheduling a medical checkup with your physician. Addressing your oral health and physical health together can help you enjoy a longer and more satisfying life.