How Oral Health and Heart Disease are Connected

Gum disease and other oral health problems can be a sign that your body is out of balance.
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Gum disease and other oral health problems can be a sign that your body is out of balance.
Prevent gum disease: oral health best practices

How does poor oral health contribute to heart disease?

Q: My dentist told me that poor dental/oral health can increase the risk for other diseases. Is this just an urban legend to generate more dental business? —Ryan K., Minneapolis

A: No, it’s not an urban legend at all. The link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease has long been established. And more recently, researchers have been taking a great deal of interest in the gut-brain axis, which involves the connection between intestinal health and mental health.

The good bugs that reside throughout our bodies—including in the mouth—work in many ways, largely by helping to digest nutrients so they can be absorbed, and also by helping to form enzymes and neurotransmitters, including adrenaline, cortisol, serotonin, and GABA.

This delicate balance of microbes in the mouth and rest of the digestive tract can be thrown out of whack easily, creating a range of health problems. For instance, there is a lot of microflora-disrupting junk out there posing as “food.” I don’t want to sound judgmental, but I’m always shocked when I walk into a superstore and see aisle upon aisle of fluffed-up, GMO-laced corn-carbs with artificial flavorings. Protect your brain! Don’t walk down these aisles.

Types of bacteria in the mouth

The mucosa-covered surfaces in your mouth are prime targets for bacteria, and various types can be found on the throat, tongue, teeth, and gums no matter how healthy you are—especially Streptococcus, Neisseria, Fusobacterium, and Prevotella bacteria. Recent research shows that Parkinson’s patients are low in Prevotella bugs in their mouth and gut.

The mouth is subjected to constant environmental changes, and any disturbance in the mouth leads to changes in microflora. When conditions are disrupted, and the helpful bacteria are outnumbered by pathogenic bacteria, diseases can occur. Some of the same bacteria that cause bad breath on the tongue will cause periodontal disease between the gum and the tooth surface.

To help restore bacterial balance to your mouth and throat, probiotic formulas featuring Streptococcus salivarius K12 are available. These are designed to support your body’s key natural defense system. In addition to probiotics, calcium, magnesium, silica, zinc, vitamin C, and CoQ10 are all important for oral health.

What can you do to maintain health mouth bacteria and prevent periodontal disease?

Brush and floss your teeth twice daily. If your teeth are irregularly spaced, also consider water-piking. Rinse your mouth out right after eating anything, even a small snack. Eat lively foods (e.g., pickles, yogurt, kimchi) and raw foods daily. Go easy on animal products, or go vegan. Check it out. You might feel even better!

Editor’s note: Read more about good bacteria and probiotics.