How Does Gum Disease Promote Heart Attacks?

Oct. 18, 2001
The ADHA has the answers during National Dental Hygiene Month.

Chicago-October 1, 2001-"Want Some Life-Saving Advice? Ask Your Dental Hygienist" how gum disease promotes heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and premature babies.

That's the question dental hygienists want Americans to ask during October's 9th annual National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM), according to American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) President Ann Naber, RDH. In response, dental hygienists will educate patients about the mounting evidence linking poor oral health to numerous life-threatening diseases, Naber explained.

"Around this same time last year, the Surgeon General's office released a landmark report, Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, confirming a link between gum disease and heart and lung diseases," Naber said, adding that more than 75 percent of adults suffer from some form of gum disease.

"Disease-causing bacteria that live in the mouth spread toxins to the heart and other parts of the body via the circulatory system," Naber explained.

"This symbiotic connection broadens today's dental hygienists' scope of care to include not just expertise in preventing oral diseases but also diagnostic understanding of other systemic diseases that have oral manifestations," Naber said.

In order to maintain optimal oral health, Naber suggested people implement a few simple hygiene habits such as daily flossing into an oral health care routine.

In fact, a University of Chicago researcher found that daily flossing can add 6-12 years to a person's life-comparable to quitting smoking.

And according to the Surgeon General's Report, fluoride is another example of an underutilized prevention tool.

The 1945 advent of fluoridated drinking water was one of the 20th Century's 10 greatest achievements-an effective, safe and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay for people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, the Report stated.

But despite its proven effectiveness, almost half of U.S. water supplies still are not fluoridated, which translates into 18,000 communities and more than 40 million children who do not receive fluoride in their drinking water.

Even if they live in areas that don't have fluoridated drinking water, Naber said individuals can best improve their oral health by eating a healthy diet, maintaining good oral hygiene, along with adopting health-promoting behaviors like quitting smoking and regular oral health care exams.

Sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists' Association, NDHM began in 1985 as a week-long observance designed to raise public awareness about preventive oral health care.

By 1993, NDHM activities had grown so varied and widespread that a week was not enough to fit all the projects planned by dental hygienists and corporate supporters around the country so it was expanded to include the entire month of October.

ADHA encourages community leaders to contact their local dental hygiene associations to learn more about NDHM programs and activities.

ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of the more than 100,000 dental hygienists across the country.

Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in dental hygiene, who specialize in the prevention and treatment of oral diseases in order to protect total health.

If you would like more information about dental hygiene, preventive oral health, or the connection between periodontal (gum) disease and life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease; diabetes; low-birthweight babies, or respiratory ailments, visit ADHA at