Skip to page content

Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Program


Managing gum disease can improve your heart health

Heart disease claims some 610,000 lives each year and has become the nation’s No. 1 killer of both men and women. Research has found a link between this deadly disease and your dental health—specifically, the health of your gums.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine1, taking care of your gums and treating gum disease can go a long way in lessening the impact of coronary artery disease (CAD). The study showed that patients who have been treated for gum disease had lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations for CAD.

But despite the link between the two, the American Heart Association says it’s not clear whether gum disease causes heart disease, or vice versa. Both gum disease and heart disease have some of the same risk factors, including smoking, poor nutrition and diabetes.

Researchers have found a strong correlation between gum disease and heart disease even in non-smoking populations, too. One theory is that bacteria from the mouth can spread throughout the body and worsen other inflammatory conditions like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 2 diabetes.2

It’s important to remember that prevention is the best medicine. Regular healthy oral hygiene habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And if you already have one or both of these conditions, you can help reduce their impact by:

  • Brushing and flossing regularly. To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
  • Choosing a healthy diet, rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce or eliminate sugar and starches
  • Avoiding cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Even smokeless tobacco can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.
  • Visit the dentist for regular cleanings and exams. Your dentist can identify signs of systemic illness and catch gum disease early on. Always tell your dentist your medical history, current conditions and any medications you’re taking.

Visit for more information on the mouth-body connection.

1 Jeffcoat et al. Impact of periodontal therapy on general health: evidence from insurance data for five systemic conditions. Am J Prev Med. 2014;47(2):166-74.

2 Saini et al. Periodontal diseases: A risk factor to cardiovascular disease. Ann Card Anaesth 2010;13:159-61.