Will taking care of my teeth help prevent heart disease?

Answers from Martha Grogan, M.D.

Good oral health is important, but taking care of your teeth isn't a proven way to prevent heart disease.

Poor oral health has been debated as a possible cause of heart disease for many years. In 2012, however, experts from the American Heart Association reviewed the available scientific evidence and concluded that poor oral health hasn't been proved to cause heart disease — and that treating existing gum disease hasn't been proved to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Both gum disease and heart disease involve swelling (inflammation), but swelling of the gums hasn't been proved to contribute to swelling elsewhere in the body. Similarly, the presence of bacteria on the teeth and gums hasn't been shown to directly contribute to heart disease.

Even though oral health isn't a key to heart disease prevention, it's still important to take care of your teeth and gums:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months — or sooner if the bristles become frayed.
  • See your dentist for regular dental checkups.

If you're concerned about heart disease prevention, ask your doctor about proven ways to reduce your risk — such as stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Nov. 14, 2012 See more Expert Answers