Links between oral health and heart health?

Twice now in the last few weeks I’ve come across news stories that suggest that having good oral hygeine and being in good oral health can improve your heart condition - one suggested that having bad oral health can lead to heart problems.

What’s the connection there?

Two possible theories that I know of (depends which studies you saw):

  1. Correlative reasoning: People with good oral hygiene tend to take better care of themselves than those with bad oral hygiene. For example, if you’re the type of person who flosses, you’re probably also the type of person who eats a balanced diet, exercises, etc. It’s just the opposite for those with bad oral hygiene.
  2. Causative reasoning (probably one of many); Bleeding gums are a great way for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream. These bacteria can activate macrophages (immune cells) in the bloodstream. Activated macrophages are known to play a central role in the formation of arterial plaques - which are the gunks that clog your arteries, and can break loose to cause heart attacks, pulmonary emboli, and strokes.

Until recently, It was common for dentists to prescribe prophylactic antiobiotics to patients with some cardiac issues.

The main concern was endocarditis, I believe.

They don’t do it any more.

(I am at high risk for heart problems and have had lots of dental issues recently)

I seem to recall some alleged connection between abcessed teeth and endocarditis, but I can’t find it.

Anecdotally, my uncle did go in for some sort of oral surgery (I can’t remember if it waas a root canal, periodontal surgery or what) and developed an infection, which actually did lead to endocarditis. He died (quickly) while my parents were on vacation in Hawaii, and my mother was crushed that she couldn’t get back in time for the funeral.

Terry Sanford was the US Senator from NC and he got a heart infection from dental work while running for re-election. He needed heart surgery so he could not campaign for a few weeks and he lost a close race. He might have lost anyway but the surgery pointed out that he wasn’t exactly a young guy.