Did you know that heart disease and oral health are linked? There are two different connections between heart disease and your oral health:
#1: How gum disease increases risk of heart attacks
Gum disease (called gingivitis in its early stages and periodontal disease in the late stages) is caused by plaque buildup.
Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. It has also been suggested that inflammation caused by gum disease may also trigger clot formation. Clots decrease blood flow to the heart, thereby causing an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
#2: How oral health warns about heart disease
More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases - including heart disease - have oral symptoms, research suggests. In addition, dentists can help patients with a history of heart disease by examining them for any signs of oral pain, infection or inflammation. According to the AGD, proper diagnosis and treatment of tooth and gum infections in some of these patients have led to a decrease in blood pressure medications and improved overall health.
Warning signs for gum disease
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
- Gums that seem to be pulling away from your teeth
- Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- Teeth that are loose or are separating from each other
Prevention is the best medicine
Research has not shown that treatment for one of these diseases will help control the other, but we do know that regular dental checkups, professional cleanings and good oral hygiene practices can improve oral health and that good oral health contributes to good overall health.
Regular dental exams and cleanings are necessary to remove bacteria, plaque and tartar and detect early signs of gum disease.
Some information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry . The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.