Locations:
Search IconSearch

Is There a Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Problems?

How oral hygiene and cardiac health go hand-in-hand​

brushing teeth in the morning

Many people believe that healthy teeth and gums go hand-in-hand with a healthy heart, but is there really a direct link?

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Research supporting this suspected link is circumstantial, but paying attention to oral health — with regular brushing and flossing — is still an important part of staying healthy.

“We see a great deal of overlap between those with gum disease, and those who have a history of cardiac disease, heart attack or stroke,” says cardiologist Christine Jellis, MD. “We know that people who brush and floss regularly have better overall health, along with less gum disease and periodontal inflammation.”

Bad habits are linked to heart problems

Poor oral and cardiac health often occur together, especially if you smoke, have diabetes, have obesity or high blood pressure.

The link between smoking and heart disease is well known. Smokers are more likely to practice poor oral hygiene and to have oral cancers, periodontitis and gingivitis. Diabetes can also lead to dry mouth, poorly healing gums and oral thrush, which is a yeast infection in the mouth and throat. In fact, those who have diabetes and also smoke are 20 times more likely to have oral thrush or periodontal disease.

According to a study done in the AHA journal Hypertension, gum disease could worsen blood pressure and can interfere with medications used to treat hypertension.

“A healthy diet improves heart function, says Dr. Jellis. “Those who avoid high sugar foods also tend to have have healthier teeth and gums.”

How to reduce your risk

Prevention is key. To make cardiac and mouth issues less likely, take these steps to reduce risk factors:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Eat low-sugar foods and drinks.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Get more exercise.
  • Increase intake of fruits and veggies.
  • Manage diabetes if you have it because high blood sugar can lead to infections.

Not only do these healthy lifestyle changes help prevent cardiac disease, but they also go a long way in improving cholesterol and blood pressure, too.

Advertisement

Get regular checkups with your dentist for good preventive care and to help protect your teeth. Dental care can help you avoid or limit oral health problems, while regular visits to your doctor can help you keep track of any cardiovascular risks. Controlling any inflammation is necessary for good health even if there’s no proof of a direct link.

“Oral and heart disease can both be linked to chronic inflammation, so that’s always created the suspicion that there is a link between the two,” says Dr. Jellis. “While research in this area is still evolving, it makes sense to be proactive about optimizing both heart and mouth care.”

Talk to your dentist if you have cardiac disease

While experts don’t generally recommend taking antibiotics before dental work for people with simple heart valve disease who have never had valve surgery, it remains always important for these people to brush and floss regularly for good oral hygiene.

A direct link between oral and heart health does exist for those who have certain pre-existing cardiac conditions that make them prone to infective endocarditis, an infection that strikes heart valves or other heart structures. This group particularly includes those who have some congenital heart defects and artificial heart valves.

If you fall into one of these groups, tell your dentist before any procedures. Also talk to your doctor about taking antibiotics before surgeries that might cause bacteria enter the bloodstream.

If you take a blood thinner, also alert your dentist and confirm with your cardiologist that it’s OK to stop taking it if required for dental procedures.

“The key is communication between the dentist and the cardiologist to see if there’s any question about the safety of doing any dental procedures,” says Dr. Jellis. “The consequences of not doing so could be significant.”​

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person applying teeth whitening strip to their teeth
July 15, 2024/Oral Health
Are Teeth Whiteners Safe and Worth Trying?

At-home products like whitening toothpaste, rinses and strips can bring bright results

Smiling person with white teeth applying toothpaste to toothbrush
July 11, 2024/Oral Health
Brighten Your Smile: How To Get Whiter Teeth

A variety of products can be effective at removing stains on teeth

Smiling pregnant person speaking with healthcare provider in medical office
June 14, 2024/Heart Health
Why Your Heart Needs Special Attention When You’re Pregnant

Obesity, age and preexisting heart conditions can all raise your risk of cardiovascular disease during pregnancy

Bowl of artificial sweetener with a spoonful
June 7, 2024/Heart Health
Eating Foods With Xylitol Can Be a Risk to Your Heart

Xylitol in processed food can increase risk of heart attack and stroke — but there’s no danger in xylitol in oral care products

Person standing in kitchen holding glass of water in one hand and medication in the other
May 31, 2024/Heart Health
How To Get Rid of Chest Pain at Home

If your provider has ruled out a serious cause, you can treat chest pain at home with antacids, inhalers or anti-inflammatory medications

Person blowing nose, surrounded by medicines and home remedies
May 30, 2024/Primary Care
Why Do I Keep Getting Sick?

Stress and unhealthy habits can lead to more colds, but taking some precautions may help you stay well

Person pulling bottom lip down to show mouth ulcer
May 28, 2024/Oral Health
Is It a Canker Sore or Cancer? Look for These Signs

Non-cancerous ulcers usually heal within a few days or weeks — if it’s sticking around, it’s time to get it checked

Hand holding cellphone with walking app, with feet walking and footprints
May 17, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Should You Aim To Walk 10,000 Steps a Day?

Walking is a great goal, but how many steps are best for you depends on factors like your fitness level and age

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad