Oral health and its effects on heart health

The PebbleCreek Rotary Club recently hosted Dr. Daniel Wolter of Millennium Dental Arts for a talk about the connection between oral health and heart health. The event took place on April 18 at 7:30 a.m. While Dr. Wolter has given presentations to various groups at PebbleCreek in the past, this was the first time he presented to the Rotary Club. He was invited by Richard Sitch of the Club Service and Administration Committee.

Over the last decade or so, it has become widely understood that oral health and systemic health are intricately linked. Poor oral health can contribute to—or actually cause—many serious conditions throughout the body, including pneumonia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers.

In addition, thousands of scientific studies have shown a significant correlation between poor oral health and increased risk of heart attack and stroke, two of the leading killers in the U.S.

Dr. Wolter’s talk focused primarily on the associations between oral health and cardiac health, while touching on other serious health issues like stroke, hypertension and atherosclerosis. He made his points through a well-balanced mix of scientific findings, clinical cases and personal observations.

Unfortunately, the destructive condition of gum disease and oral infection still affects up to 80 percent of baby boomers. In certain senior populations, the prevalence is around 90 percent.

Chronic gum disease leads to swollen gums, bad breath, loose teeth and a high risk for tooth loss. However, even in the late stages of this devastating condition, there is rarely any pain. This is one of the reasons that so few people seek early treatment.

In addition to being the main cause for adult tooth loss, the oral bacteria which cause gum disease continually enter the bloodstream through infected gums which bleed easily, even during routine tasks like eating, flossing or tooth brushing.

Once in the bloodstream, these bacteria can travel to distant sites throughout the body—such as the heart—settle there and cause serious damage. In addition to destruction from the bacteria themselves, the body responds with high levels of inflammation, which further harms tissues and causes all kinds of health problems.

Specifically, with regard to heart disease, having poor oral health more than doubles your risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke. It also makes it much more likely that you will have a heart attack or stroke at a younger age. If that’s not enough to motivate you to brush and floss better and to see your dentist at least twice a year, consider this: the average life expectancy of a person with poor oral health is about six years shorter than someone who has healthy teeth and gums. Mouth problems clearly do not stay in the mouth.

Fortunately, modern treatments for gum disease are better, more comfortable, and more predictable than ever before. With proper, ongoing care, you can not only keep your teeth for a lifetime, but also keep your heart much healthier.

Dr. Wolter has been a longtime provider of dental care to well over 1,500 PebbleCreek residents. His practice is focused exclusively on serving baby boomers and seniors with their unique oral health care needs. He can be reached at 623-536-6789 or Info@MDA-Dentist.com.

The Rotary Club of PebbleCreek has about two dozen members and is founded on an ethic of “service above self.” It supports various vocational, international, community and youth needs. All proceeds from fundraising go directly to charitable projects. The club meets each Wednesday from 7:00-8:00 a.m. in the Chianti Room of the Tuscany Falls Clubhouse. For further information about the Rotary Club of PebbleCreek, contact Joan Smith, Club President, at 503-348-9468 or JBSmith80@aol.com.