The most obvious connection between your mouth and your heart is the food you put in your mouth. This is best summarized by a quote from 20th century health practitioner Ann Wigmore: “The food you eat can be the safest, most powerful medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Less obvious is that the health of your gums and teeth influences vascular health. Gum disease starts with gingivitis, which can cause bleeding, but which often causes no symptoms in early stages. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection of the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Certain mouth bacteria can also cause endodontic disease — dental decay, root canal abscesses and failed tooth implants.
The Bale-Doneen Method of heart attack prevention is known for being evidence-based and extremely effective. In 2017 Brad Bale, M.D. and Amy Doneen, FNP, PhD, published a study in a respected medical journal about how gingivitis, periodontal disease and endodontic disease harm arteries. A healthy mouth is home to over 700 species of bacteria (the mouth microbiome), which aid digestion and disease prevention. However, through smoking, poor oral hygiene, stress, obesity, insulin resistance (prediabetes, type 2 diabetes) and an unhealthy diet, harmful bacteria known as “high-risk oral pathogens” take over.
There are five types of high-risk bacteria, with long Latin names. These bacteria contribute to gum and tooth problems. Furthermore, they enter the blood stream easily, and cause chronic infection that results in inflammation. And this inflammation in turn contributes to formation of arterial plaque and to plaque rupture, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. (The chronic inflammation from high-risk mouth bacteria also contributes to diabetes, certain cancers, erectile dysfunction, frailty in the elderly, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s).
Studies have shown that a large percentage of clots taken from heart attack patients have DNA evidence of high-risk mouth bacteria. Many of the professionals who take the Bale-Doneen Method courses are dentists, who can order saliva tests for high-risk mouth pathogens through companies such as Direct Diagnostics (cost is $99). These dentists know what to do if these disease-causing bacteria are found.
The take-home messages about the mouth-vascular connection are these:
· To maintain a healthy mouth microbiome, avoid smoking, stress, obesity, insulin resistance and unhealthy food.
· The five high-risk bacteria can get into the bloodstream, where they cause infection-related inflammation that results in arterial plaque buildup and plaque rupture — the cause of heart attacks, most strokes — and other health problems including dementia.
· Good dental hygiene is important throughout life and should include brushing properly after meals, flossing and using a Water Pik in the evening. It’s also important to see a dental hygienist once or twice a year, who should check your gum pockets at least once a year (any pocket over 3 millimeters is abnormal). Furthermore, you should have dental x-rays periodically, which pick up hidden problems — Bale and Doneen recommend 3-D cone beam tomography as the best imaging.
If you have bleeding gums, or a toothache, see a dentist without delay.