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It’s Time to Take the Mouth-Body Connection® to Heart
What is the Mouth-Body Connection®? It is the association between bacteria in the mouth and a panoply of health issues, from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer's.
What does the Mouth-Body Connection mean to you? It could mean a new lease on life – if you take the connection to heart.
Recently, one of my colleagues, a dental hygienist at a Smile Generation®trusted dental office, noticed her patient had elevated blood pressure. What’s more, she knew that his oral health issues put him at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
She told her patient to seek medical care right away. Just a few days later, he began sweating profusely and experiencing chest pain. Remembering his conversation with his dental hygienist, he drove himself to the ER, where he received life-saving medical intervention for what could have been a fatal cardiac event.
I am immensely proud of my colleague. And I’m also impressed by her patient. By taking care of his oral health, identifying his risk factors and listening to his Mouth-Body Connection, he took charge of his whole-body health. He is alive and well today and, I have to assume, smiling.
He is not alone. All over the country, dentists and their patients are having important conversations about physical and oral health. You can too. And you may end up with a healthier smile and a whole lot more.
Until next time,Dr. Carolyn Ghazal, DDS
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Concerned about heart health?
Go see your dentist.
Brush and floss at least twice a day. While that’s the sound advice you’d expect to hear from your dentist, you might be surprised to hear it coming from your medical provider.
said Amy Doneen, D.N.P., co-founder of theBaleDoneen
Method for the prevention of arterial disease. “We have published that highrisk periodontal pathogens contribute to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis (Postgraduate Medicine, 2017) and oral health issues are often behind the inflammation we see with arterial disease.”
It comes down to communication. Make sure your dentist has a complete medical history, including the names and dosages of all the drugs you are taking for your cardiovascular condition. This will help your dentist determine the best dental treatments for you.
“We are seeing increasing evidence that the bacteria common in oral health issues could be behind the inflammation we see with arterial disease...”
Next, share the name and number of all of your doctors with your dentist, especially your cardiologist.
“We can reach out to patients’ cardiologists before pursuing certain dental treatments to ensure patient safety,” said Deepika Dhama, DDS. “We are also often the first to notice changes that can affect a person’s heart health. We can share that information with a patient’s doctor or encourage our patients to reach out to their cardiologists for follow-up care.”
This collaborative approach to care can make all the difference, especially because the sophisticated imaging technologies used in dentistry increasingly catch “incidental” evidence of arterial disease and other cardiovascular conditions.
“One of our patients who has a family history of premature coronary artery disease came to our office for an emergency dental visit. Our cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), the advanced imaging system that we use at all Smile Generation®-trusted offices, pinpointed the source of our patient’s pain but also discovered carotid calcification,” said Melissa Stroup, DDS of Falcon Park Dental Group in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
“Carotid calcification is a well-known marker of atherosclerosis and is linked to a high rate of heart disease and death. 2 ”
That patient was referred to a cardiologist for treatment and is now doing well.
“Working together – the patient, the dentist and the cardiologist – we can ensure better oral health and better heart health. This goes a long way to maximizing our shared patients’ highest possible quality of life,” said Dr. Stroup.
“The message to patients is that you might not know that you have an underlying medical condition, but you do know how long it has been since you’ve seen your dentist,” Dr. Doneen said. “By maintaining your oral health, you can prevent the kind of inflammatory conditions that put you at higher risk for cardiac disease. By encouraging patients to take simple steps – staying on top of your oral health, for instance – we can help them prevent a catastrophic disease. Nothing in the practice of medicine is more fulfilling than that.”
“We like to talk about the MouthBody Connection® , but it is only as strong as our collaboration.
How Oral Health Affects Heart Health
It’s one thing to talk about why oral health is important to a person’s overall health, but it’s another to show real-life examples of how a patient’s well-being has improved thanks to care from their Smile Generation®trusted dental professional.
When it comes to heart health, it’s been proven that gum diseases can cause bacteria to build up in the mouth1, leading to inflammation. That bacteria can then be carried to other parts of your body, most notably the heart, where it can have devastating effects.
Gum disease has been connected to systemic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, pre-term/ low-weight births, cancer and more. Conversely, the link is often bidirectional. Many systemic diseases, conditions and even medications can affect a patient’s oral health.
That’s why when a patient walked into Mountain Dental Group in Nevada and had their blood pressure checked, the hygienist advised him that his blood pressure was high and he was at risk for a cardiac episode. A few days later, the patient began experiencing chest pain, sweating and weakness in his arms and legs. Remembering what the hygienist had told him, he quickly drove himself to the hospital, where he made it to the ER in time to save his life.
Another patient came to Falcon Park Dental Group in Colorado for an emergency dental visit because they had pain in their mouth. After discovering that the patient had heart murmurs and a family history of heart
disease, the dentist performed a CBCT scan and not only discovered the source of the dental pain, but also detected some calcification in the artery leading from the neck to the heart. The patient was referred to a cardiologist and is now working on a treatment plan.
At Richfield Dentistry in Minnesota, a patient who had previously suffered a heart attack was receiving care for bleeding gums. Because of gum disease and its potential for affecting the heart, the dentist ordered a CBCT scan to rule out any further abnormalities. After his scan came back revealing no abnormalities, the patient was impressed with the technology and is determined to continue managing his oral health.
Generation-trusted dental practices using Epic...
the most widely used comprehensive health records system in the United States. Using Epic allows patients and their healthcare professionals to view their medical and dental health records all in one place. That’s why healthier, happier patients are happening every day.
This link between a person’s oral health and their overall health is what Smile Generation-trusted dental practices call The Mouth-Body Connection® .
This seamless care between dental and health professionals is made possible thanks
Heart Healthy &
While eating more fruits and vegetables is always a good idea, eating the colors of the rainbow will increase your intake of nutrients and improve your overall health, including your heart and your brain1.
Add color to your plate each day with the five main color groups.
The National Partnership between Smile Generation and Special Olympics International helps support athletes in their journey to finding care and educates them on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene. Together we are bridging the gap that patients with intellectual disabilities have in receiving comprehensive oral healthcare.
Join us in signing Special Olympics’ Inclusion Pledge.
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The Smile Generation exists to connect you with trusted dentists in your area and to offer education on the critical link between oral and overall health. We’d love to know what you think of our magazine.
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Concerned About Heart Health? Go See Your Dentist
1. People with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart attack or stroke: Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 2021
2. Carotid Calcification and Death: National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biolotechnology Information, 2021
Patient stories: How oral health affects heart health
1. Good dental health may help prevent heart infection from mouth bacteria Newsroom, American Heart Association, 2021
Heart Healthy Foods