Are gum disease and heart disease linked?December 9, 2020 12:34 pm
It might sound strange, but research and studies have found a link between the health of your gums – and the health of your heart. While nothing is proven, it certainly gives an added incentive to look after yourself, and your dental health in particular. Read on to learn more.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is very common. In fact, many people have it without even knowing! In its earliest stages, it means that your gums become, red, inflamed, and swollen. They may bleed when you’re brushing your teeth and it may feel uncomfortable, or you may have bad breath. This happens because plaque, the sticky substance that builds up on your teeth when you eat and drink, contains bacteria.
If the plaque isn’t removed by brushing, then more of it accumulates over time, and more bacteria grow and irritate the gums around your teeth. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.
However, if gingivitis is left untreated, then the soft tissue and the gums get worse – they become more infected and start to pull away from your teeth, allowing your teeth to become loose. This is called periodontitis. Again, if it’s not treated, then the jaw bone can be affected too – over time this can cause your teeth to fall out.
What do my gums have to do with my heart?
Studies have shown possible links between oral health and cardiovascular disease. Losing a tooth – a sign of advanced gum disease – has been shown to be connected to coronary heart disease. Bacterial infections in the bloodstream, perhaps stemming from gum disease in the mouth, can affect heart valves and can damage other parts of the heart too.
Overall, those who have poor dental health have been found to be more likely to have heart problems.
Why does this happen?
It’s not known for sure, but there are a few schools of thought about oral health and cardiovascular disease. The first is that the bacteria from gum disease can actually travel around the body through the bloodstream, causing inflammation in the heart.
Another theory is that the body’s own immune system is the problem – as it reacts to bacteria in the mouth, causing inflammation there, it causes damage in the heart area as well. Yet another theory is around the idea that correlation doesn’t mean causation.
In other words, other factors may be at play, and those with poor dental health are more likely to have poor heart health – because of their health and lifestyle choices. For example, smoking can cause problems in both areas of the body.
What can I do about it?
Whatever the cause, one thing is for sure – keeping good oral health has a whole heap of benefits for your heart! Brush your teeth twice a day without fail, and floss daily. This will help your gums stay healthy. Visit your dentist such as Drs Nicolas & Asp Center every six months, as they will be able to check the health of your teeth and gums, and advise on extra steps if gum disease treatment or plaque and tartar removal is required by a professional hygienist.
If you have artificial heart valves, then you should be extra careful to avoid gum disease because of its association with heart infection and disease. And, there is evidence that those living with diabetes can also be helped by having gum disease treatment.
Again, the evidence isn’t conclusive, but it’s thought that bacteria might have an impact on blood sugar levels in the rest of the body. Make sure to let your dentist at Drs. Nicolas & Asp Center know if you suffer from diabetes or a heart condition, so they can help keep you in the best health.
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