Gum disease is an incredibly common oral health condition that effects well over half of the US population. This bacterial infection in the gums is also cited as the leading cause of tooth loss, but researchers fear that its impact reaches far beyond your smile. There is a well-known connection between oral and overall health, and recent research is beginning to indicate that gum disease can significantly influence heart health. Here’s what your Carlsbad dentist wants you to know about this important relationship and what you can do to keep your heart and smile healthy.
What is Gum Disease?
It’s common knowledge that brushing your teeth is essential to preventing cavities. However, plaque and tartar buildup can cause much more than tooth decay. The bacteria they contain can cause an infection in your gum tissue known as periodontal (gum) disease. The initial stage, gingivitis, causes tender, inflamed gums that bleed easily, but can be reversed if caught and treated early enough. However, if the infection advances into periodontitis, it can cause:
- Sores or bumps on the gums.
- Painful chewing and sensitive teeth.
- Jawbone damage and tooth loss.
How Can Gum Disease Influence Heart Health?
Periodontitis is associated with a number of other systemic health issues, including diabetes, memory loss, respiratory disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, there has recently been an increased interest in the relationship between gum disease and heart health. Multiple recent studies indicate that periodontitis can increase risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular complications by up to 20%.
Although more research is needed, experts believe they have found the two main culprits behind this connection: oral bacteria and inflammation. If the harmful oral bacteria at the root of gum disease were to get into the bloodstream, it could travel to the heart and infect the inner linings of its chambers and valves. Similarly, a prolonged immune response to a bacterial infection in the gums could spread inflammation throughout the body, which would narrow and clog important arteries.
How Can I Stay Healthy?
Heart and dental experts can’t say for sure that treating gum disease will lower your risk of heart disease, but they agree that the link is undeniable. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep your gums healthy and infection-free, like:
- Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day.
- Using antiseptic mouthwash and dental floss daily.
- Eating fewer sugary snacks and more nutritious foods.
- Getting regular dental checkups twice a year.
- Watching for any signs or symptoms of gum disease.
If you’re concerned about the health of your gums, talk to your dentist right away. Whether it’s through improved oral hygiene or professional periodontal therapy, they can help your smile and your heart stay happy and healthy!
About the Author
Our goal at Polished General Dentistry in Carlsbad, CA is to keep your smile healthy, beautiful, and intact for a lifetime. In order to spot and stop any developing issues as early as possible, Dr. Megan Shelton encourages all her patients to get a dental checkup every six months. If any signs of gum disease are detected, she can help get your oral health back on track with additional cleanings or a variety of periodontal therapies. To learn more about treating gum disease, feel free to contact her via her website or at (760) 434-9800.