The Dental-Cardiac Connection: How Good Oral Health Can Help Prevent Heart Disease
Jan 28, 2014 09:09PM
By Dr. David Lerner
The mouth is an integral part of the whole body, and as such it profoundly affects and is influenced by other aspects of the body—including heart health and function. In recent years there has been an abundance of research linking gum disease to heart disease. In fact, there are three links:
The first link is nutrition. Deficiencies of vitamins C, E and A and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) will weaken both the heart and gum tissue. The same is true for deficiencies of selenium and magnesium.
The second link is chronic inflammation—a common denominator in most chronic degenerative disease. Reducing inflammation in the gums with proper dental care can reduce inflammation in the body as a whole. Conversely, identifying and resolving causes of chronic inflammation in the body, such as toxicity and allergy, will help resolve systemic causes of gum inflammation.
The third link is infection. Bacteria in dental plaque can migrate through inflamed gums into the blood system and then play a role in degenerative heart and vascular disease. These bacteria have been found in diseased heart valves and in thickened blood vessel walls in the aorta.
Another connection between the mouth and the heart is due to the acupuncture associations between individual teeth and the rest of the body. The wisdom teeth, or third molars, are located on the heart meridian as it passes through the mouth.
Our understanding of this connection comes from the work of Reinhold Voll, MD, of Germany, and Enesto Adler, MD, DDS, of Spain. Adler documented many cases of patients whose heart symptoms were relieved by the removal of impacted or chronically infected wisdom teeth. Such a tooth can act as a focus of irritation through the nervous system and will affect other parts of the body that are connected through the meridians.
Another path of influence between the mouth and the heart is along the myofascial (muscular and fascia) pathways of the body, which in part form the acupuncture meridians. When bite stress on the upper teeth inhibits normal movement of the upper jaw, there is tension in the base of the skull and in the major blood vessels and nerves as they pass through the neck into the chest—the myofascial pathway of the pericardium. The initial symptoms of this tension may be chronic tightness in the chest or depression due to blocked flow of chi between the head and body.
Another very important dental connection can be found in cases of cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).The bite of the teeth plays a central role in maintaining symmetry and balance throughout the body’s muscular system. An off-balance bite will result in changes throughout the body, weakening pathways through the muscular system that follow the course of the acupuncture myofascial meridians.
The major chest muscle known as pectoralis may develop chronic tension, affecting the heart rhythm. This phenomenon was first identified by Janet Travel, MD, who observed that trigger points in the pectoralis seemed to generate reflexive reaction in the heart, resulting in irregular heartbeats. Sometimes patients perceived the pain originating in the tight, tender areas of this muscle as coming from their heart. Over the years we have seen numerous patients with this syndrome who benefitted from the restoration of proper bite support, which resolved the cause of their irregular heartbeat.
While this article emphasizes the connection between dental and heart health, remember that the body functions as a whole. Therefore all aspects of your body’s health can be influenced by the health of your mouth.
David Lerner, DDS, is the founder of The Center for Holistic Dentistry in Yorktown Heights, NY. Contact him at 914.214.9678. For more info, visit HolisticDentist.com.