Heart Disease and tooth health - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

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Heart Disease and tooth health

LesleyJ59 profile image
18 Replies

To be as brief as I can - five years ago I had a mild heart attack and am on lifelong medication. From time to time I get palpitations which have no other symptoms and are usually triggered by stress. I'm currently away from hom which often triggers me due to travelling and being in an unfamiliar environment.

I also for various reasons have neglected my teeth, and recently enrolled with a dentist to assess the damage. I am due to have some work done (filling, cleaning and something my dentist tells me is halfway between a crown and a filling). He recommended I get an electric toothbrush which I have been using twice a day for a couple of days.

Mt dentist told me that tooth health and heart health are linked, which none of my doctors - GP or cardiologist - have ever mentioned. Has anyone had any experience in that respect? I'm currently getting bad palpitations - ie intense but with no other symptoms - and wonder if it's related to using the electric toothbrush (it's a pro 3 and pretty vigorous). This may be a stupid question, but is plaque from your teeth similar to plague that deposits in your bloodstream?

18 Replies
RufusScamp profile image
RufusScamp

When my mother had to have heart surgery, she had to have her teeth checked and dealt with first. I believe infection from the jaw can spread to the heart via the bloodstream.

Perhaps others know more.

TeresaMay profile image
TeresaMay

I have always heard that they are linked but no medical advice has been given.

Rnzz99 profile image
Rnzz99 in reply to TeresaMay

I think the link is more related to infection. I’ve had a valve replaced and a bypass. I’ve been advised that ‘invasive’ dental work (ie treatment that can make your gums bleed) significantly increases the risk of endocarditis, which particularly attacks the heart valve.

Mentdent profile image
Mentdent

Coronary artery disease is linked to chronic gum disease. This has been known for decades. It doesn’t just affect humans. The mechanism is thought to be the introduction of micro clots and bacterial debris into the blood stream from poor periodontal health. This can be minimised but god oral hygiene. Why cardiologists don’t mention this to patients has been a bit of a mystery to dentists for a long time. They always seem very keen to warn people with heart valve problems about dentists but forget the coronary artery disease link.

gimble profile image
gimble in reply to Mentdent

Hi Mentdent,

I was curious regarding your last sentence. Are dentists encouraged to inform patients about the coronary artery disease link?

The reason I ask is that I cannot recall being told by any dentist about this link until after I was being observed by a cardiologist for a heart murmur and even then it was part of the explanation for being given antibiotics prior to invasive dental work. This was prior to the NICE guideline change in 2007 of which we have previously discussed.

Would it be standard practice to inform patients of this link who do not have a personal history or a family history of heart disease?

Best wishes,

Gimble

Mentdent profile image
Mentdent in reply to gimble

theoretically yes but in practice it doesn’t come up often because the people with poor oral hygiene and bad gum disease are the people who don’t visit the dentist

JeremiahObadiah profile image
JeremiahObadiah

I also have always believed heart health and teeth/gum health are linked. I remember as a child ( pre history obviously) hearing of a woman who had to have all her teeth taken out for this reason so it must have been known about a long time.

Have you been shown how to floss and use inter dental brushes for your gums? Electric brushes take a bit of getting used to at first but once you are in the habit they are great. Could you try to get some sessions with a dental hygienist -a good one will really help you.

Could the worry be causing the palpitations? It would seem unlikely that the toothbrush is causing it.

I think, but I do not know details , that dental plaque is bacterial build up whereas the sort that causes circulation problems is fatty/inflammatory. I think the bacteria in gum disease is harmful to your heart. Can anyone reading give more information on this?

LesleyJ59 profile image
LesleyJ59 in reply to JeremiahObadiah

Thanks, I have two appointments with the dental hygenist due to cleaning and tartar, but I'm having the work done first.

LesleyJ59 profile image
LesleyJ59 in reply to JeremiahObadiah

And yup, most probably it's the worry causing the palpitations. Every time I get an ECG I'm told it's 'normal'

Op2021Heart profile image
Op2021Heart

I had a valve repair in 2021 and was told to see the dentist and take care if my teeth in preparation for my operation. I now must take a antibiotic before my future dental appointments incase any work is needed. Its to minimise risk of any germs from your teeth getting into your bloodstream.

wischo profile image
wischo

Most likely caused by anxiety but keep your dental appointments to cover all possabilities.

LesleyJ59 profile image
LesleyJ59 in reply to wischo

Brushing twice a day with my new electric toothbrush. It felt very odd at first but I'm getting used to it.

PecanSandie profile image
PecanSandie

Yes. there is a connection. I actually snipped an article from the paper about this very subject and finally remembered to give it to my dentist. It was of great interest to me because I seem to produce more plaque than usual and had to get my teeth cleaned three times a year. In fact, my dentist would inject antibiotics under my gums once a years as a preventative (I don't think they do this procedure anymore) I have changed from a regular looking electric toothbrush to the smaller round kind and that has improved my teeth 100% (and I only have to go two times a year now, YAY!). My dog always had dirty teeth and he developed a heart problem - I have always felt their is a connection. Imo it 's really curious that regular Medicare does not cover dental cleanings since it's really an important part of one's health.

LesleyJ59 profile image
LesleyJ59 in reply to PecanSandie

It seems that doctors and dentists are not on speaking terms. I rang my GPs surgery with a swollen lymph gland in my neck and the receptionist said 'Is it dental? Because we don't cover dental problems.' As if I knew which it was! They just seem to ignore each other or act as if they are Witch Doctors.

Anon2023 profile image
Anon2023

hi. I had no idea about this until my pre op for a valve replacement when I was asked for a letter from my dentist about my oral health. I now know about the importance of good dental health in terms of avoiding endocarditis. I make sure I go to the dentist regularly and brush my teeth twice a day with an electric toothbrush.

Manderson27 profile image
Manderson27

Not sure if my experience is relevant but here goes. I have always had dental issues. Bad dental hygiene when young. I have gum disease, kept in check with good practice in later life. I have recently been diagnosed with LBBB but no diagnosis yet of cause, waiting for cardio appointment. Had a dental app recently for a deep root clean something I have every few years at the dental hospital (it is free which is worth bearing in mind for those of us on limited income, students perform treatments under supervision, my hygienist referred me.) and mentioned my LBBB. She had to ask the dental consultant because the anesthetic used contains adrenaline and that can be an issue with heart problems. Consultant said no to the treatment until they have spoken to my cardiologist. I am waiting the outcome of that now. She did give my teeth a good clean without anesthetic and is happy with my hygiene regime so not really a problem, but I was a bit shocked in regard to the adrenalin as I had an abscess a few weeks ago and a tooth removed at my usual dentist and obviously they used anesthetic, I did not think to mention my LBBB at the time and I was ok but still something to consider going forward, I guess. The dental consultant said bad dental hygiene is linked to heart conditions so keep those pearly whites clean, use an electric toothbrush, interdental brushes. Apparently, some of us are actually abnormally sensitive to plaque so need to be especially attentive to our hygiene.

LesleyJ59 profile image
LesleyJ59 in reply to Manderson27

The dentist (private, can't get an NHS one) is aware of my heart problem and knows what medication I'm on so hopefully all will be well. I had great teeth right up until age 40 when I had a molar tooth out.

Manderson27 profile image
Manderson27 in reply to LesleyJ59

Sounds like you are in good hands.

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