Good Oral Health Could Protect Your Heart (Especially for Men!)

Posted on Dec 06, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on the health of Americans, it is estimated that over 47% of adults have some form of gum disease. Although we all aspire to have a smile that is appealing, it is what lies beneath the teeth and gums that can wreak havoc on one’s overall health. Yes, OVERALL health.

Although the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss is periodontal (gum) disease, the infectious bacteria of periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is associated with a wide range of serious (and even deadly) health problems.

For instance, the American Academy of Periodontology ( has cited studies that show that gum disease is associated with heart disease. Due to its ability to trigger inflammation beyond the mouth, periodontal disease may exacerbate existing heart conditions.

For this reason, cardiologists are often advising their patients to be evaluated by a periodontist prior to heart surgery.

For decades, researchers have probed the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health. People with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other serious cardiovascular event.

For patients at risk for infective endocarditis, we often work with their cardiologist when antibiotics are required prior to dental procedures. Your cardiologist will determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental treatment.

Acting as a contributing factor to heart disease is highly serious. Yet, the risks associated with gum disease don’t stop there. Research has shown this potent oral bacteria can set a path of destruction into motion. It has been linked to some cancers, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, impotency, and even Alzheimer’s.

Men, especially, need to know that they should be committed to having healthy teeth and gums. Research has found that periodontal disease is higher in men (56.4%) than in women (38.4%) – an 18% difference.

And the unfavorable statistics for men don’t stop with gum health. For men, research reveals a connection with gum disease and impotence.

Men with gum disease showed a higher risk of developing impotence due to inflammation associated with periodontal disease. This inflammation has been known to damage to blood vessels, which can lead to impotency. Men younger than 30 or older than 70 are especially at risk.

A separate study found that men with a history of gum disease are 14% more likely at risk for cancer than men with healthy gums. Specifically, men with periodontal disease are 49% more likely than women to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.

Regardless of gender, over time an inadequate daily oral hygiene leads to an overload of bacteria in the mouth. For people who have habits such as smoking, unhealthy diets, and alcohol consumption, their vulnerability is even greater.

This is also true for people as they age. Aging contributes to a reduced ability to produce saliva, the mouth’s oral rinsing agent. When saliva flow fails to rinse away bacteria at sufficient levels, the accumulation runs rampant.

Oral bacteria are living, eating, and reproducing organisms. They thrive on rotting food particles caught between teeth. They attack gum tissues and tooth enamel. Eventually, they can work their way down tooth roots and attack the bones and tendons that support teeth.

Initially, there can be very few signs of periodontal (gum) disease. Signs that emerge are typically frequent bad breath along with swollen, tender and red gums that bleed when you brush.

Once present, gum disease does not resolve on its own; it will worsen without specific treatment. As the bacteria grow in number, the gum tissues become weaker and are able to penetrate the bloodstream. This is how the inflammatory reactions are possible, able to trigger or worsen health problems far beyond the mouth.

Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing takes mere minutes and is inexpensive to do. Seeing a dentist every 6 months for oral exams and cleanings saves an individual far more by preventing problems than they cost. Still, too many adults fail to devote the investment to this necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.

An estimated 65% of adults ages 18 – 64 see a dentist only once a year. Approximately 55% of adults brush their teeth twice a day, which is too little.

As an Asheville periodontal specialist, I have an up-close view of the damaging affects of insufficient oral hygiene. It often results in tooth loss, which is (contrary to many perceptions) NOT a natural part of the aging process. Having natural teeth for a lifetime is more than achievable and has even been shown to add to one’s lifespan (by up to ten years).

If you haven’t been fully committed to your oral health, there is no better time to begin than the present. Start the new year with a thorough periodontal examination. Call 828-274-9440.

If dental fears have caused you to delay or avoid having regular dental care, consider beginning with a consultation. This occurs in a comfortable, private consultation room that is removed from the clinical side of the office. Too, many treatments can include oral or I.V. sedation (sleep dentistry, or “twilight sleep”).

And, if financial constraints are an obstacle in receiving treatment, we offer several payment plans. Most are interest-free with no down payment required (for qualified individuals). Feel free to ask about these during your consultation.

As a periodontist for over 30 years, the smiles of Western North Carolina residents are very special to me. Let’s make 2023 the year your smile is an asset to a healthy YOU!


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