As you may have heard, the American Heart Association recently released its 2023 update, which includes Life’s Essential 8, a guide aimed at enhancing cardiovascular wellness for all Americans. The guide recognizes key lifestyle variables that decrease the risk of heart disease, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, excellent sleep and not smoking. However, the AHA appears to have missed a crucial element that we at the Prevention Center have focused on for decades — periodontal disease and oral health.
Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial growth. Consistent research has suggested that periodontal disease is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and we know that individuals with periodontal disease are more prone to heart attacks and strokes.
The connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease is nuanced but is likely driven by inflammation and oral pathogens. The inflammation caused by periodontal disease also causes systemic inflammation, which increases the risk of arterial and heart disease.
While the AHA does acknowledge the importance of dental health, its new Life’s Essential 8 does not specifically place any focus on periodontal disease as a cardiovascular risk factor, making the guide incomplete. The guide could benefit from elaborating on the relationship between oral health and cardiovascular disease, which would then emphasize the vital role of dentists as part of a collaborative preventative healthcare team.
At the Prevention Center, we have great respect for our dental colleagues and the importance of oral health. Because of this, we are now not only recommending oral pathogen testing, but also offering it in the office for any patient who has not had the opportunity to complete testing with his or her dentist.