If you needed one more reason to get regular cleanings from your dentist, poor oral health may be linked with heart disease. Gum disease may be a risk factor for many different heart issues. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for about 655,000 deaths every single year. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to take care of your teeth, gums, and mouth. The most common cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene, which can cause bacteria and plaque to build up on your teeth. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help reduce your risk for gum disease.
Periodontal Disease is Associated with Cardiovascular Diseases
So, what is the link between gum disease and heart disease? There are many studies that associate the two. While it’s still unclear exactly how or why oral health may play a role in heart health, there are several theories that can explain this connection. Both family dentistry professionals and cardiologists recommend taking care of your gums due to this possible link, as well as the other negative health effects that can come from poor dental hygiene. Preventative care from your dentist and daily oral hygiene is an important step for reducing your risk for periodontal disease, which may also help reduce cardiovascular risks.
Gum Disease, Inflammation, and Your Heart
Gum disease can cause inflammation on your gums. Poor brushing, flossing, and overall dental care can lead to a buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria and adheres to the tooth surface. Over time, this can cause your gums to become inflamed and irritated. This is why dental cleanings from your dentist are so important, because they help remove this plaque. With more advanced stages of gum disease, your body may be in a constant state of inflammation.
Inflammation is also a common issue with those with cardiovascular disease. Inflammation, even at low levels throughout your body, can irritate blood vessels, arteries, and other parts of your cardiovascular system. This is a potential reason why gum disease may play a role in cardiovascular disease. Some researchers believe that inflammation caused by gum disease may put additional strain on your cardiovascular system, which may lead to heart problems and heart disease.
Oral Bacteria May Play a Role in Cardiovascular Disease
Another potential explanation for the link between periodontal disease and heart disease is bacteria. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. Some of these are good and some are bad. Good bacteria helps break down food and kill off bad bacteria that can cause health and dental problems. However, without good oral hygiene, the bad bacteria can overwhelm the good bacteria and lead to inflammation and infections. Periodontal disease is where your gums become infected and, without treatment from your dentist, may damage the bones that support your teeth.
Those with gum disease can be at a higher risk of letting these bacteria into the bloodstream. Swollen, bleeding gums can be the perfect place for bad bacteria in your mouth to get into your blood. These bacteria may even cause inflammation and infections throughout your cardiovascular system and heart. For example, researchers have found oral bacteria strains in the fatty buildup in some people’s arteries. In addition, in some cases they can go through and cause infections in the heart or other areas in the cardiovascular system.
Oral bacteria in the bloodstream has been linked to higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which can indicate inflammation. Higher levels of CRP have also been linked to a higher risk for heart disease. In fact, many doctors will test CRP levels for patients they believe have a five to ten percent chance of having a heart attack within ten years. CRP tests are also used after a first heart attack to determine the risk of a second heart attack. Therefore, some researchers theorize that oral bacteria may be to blame for the association between gum disease and heart disease.
Poor Dental Health May be a Sign of Poor Overall Health
In addition, some others believe that the link between gum health and heart health may be more nuanced than a direct cause-and-effect relationship. For example, tobacco-users generally have a higher risk of developing gum disease, as well as heart problems. Also, some scientists, doctors, and dentists believe that those with poor oral health may also be more likely to neglect their overall health. However, even if this is the case, gum disease may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular risks.
Which Heart Problems are Associated with Periodontal Disease?
Gum disease has been linked to many different cardiovascular conditions. Studies have linked periodontal disease with increasing blood pressure. Gum disease may also interfere with blood pressure medications. Oral bacteria has been found in the arteries of those with atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. Gum disease may also be a risk factor for coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.
In addition, those with gum disease have nearly a 50% higher risk for experiencing a heart attack. Another study showed that those who brushed their teeth less than twice a day and for less than two minutes at a time were three times more likely to die from heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
Also, those with gum disease may be at a higher risk for endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining of heart chambers or valves. Researchers believe this may be due to oral bacteria entering the bloodstream and attaching to the heart. Those with artificial heart valves or scheduled for heart valve surgery are encouraged to have excellent oral hygiene because of this risk.
What are the Signs of Gum Disease?
You may be wondering how you will know if you have gum disease. Approximately 80% of American adults have some form of gum disease. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed because it can start without any symptoms. Many people avoid visiting their dentist until symptoms of gum disease become bothersome. This makes early detection and treatment difficult. This is why it’s important to have regular exams and dental cleanings. During dental exams, your dentist looks for signs of gum disease to help with early detection and treatment. Regular cleanings can also help encourage healthy gums.
Some symptoms of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen, or sore gums
- Bleeding when you brush, floss, or eat
- Receding gums
- Frequent bad breath
- Frequent bad taste in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Changes in your bite
If you notice these signs, schedule a dental exam to learn if you have gum disease and learn more about next steps.
Preventing Gum Disease with Healthy Habits and Visits to your Dentist
There are several things you can do to help prevent gum disease. Make sure you brush your teeth two times each day for at least two minutes at a time. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles start to look worn. You also need to floss daily with dental floss, a water flosser, or other similar device to remove plaque and food from between your teeth. Use mouthwash after brushing to help wash away left behind food and bacteria.
Additionally, you need to come in for dental cleanings regularly. Schedule exams and cleanings every six months to help maintain good dental health and remove plaque and tartar. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help promote tooth, gum, mouth, and overall health.
Periodontal Treatment from your Dentist for Gum Disease
If you do already have gum disease, there are things you can do. In the early stages, gum disease generally takes the form of gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum infection that affects just the soft tissues. Gingivitis generally happens before periodontal disease and is reversible. Periodontal disease is a more severe version of gum disease and often leads to bone loss in the bones that support your teeth. While bone loss isn’t reversible, you can control periodontal disease with periodontal treatment. Treatments from your dentist may include deep cleaning your teeth, reducing gum pockets with surgery, or even medication.
Signs of Heart Disease
We’ve talked a lot about teeth and gum disease, but you also should know the signs of heart disease. If you believe you have heart disease, follow up with your primary care physician. If you think you’re experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular emergency, call 911. Some signs of heart disease include:
- Chest pain
- Arrhythmia or irregular heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sudden confusion
- Swelling or fluid retention (edema)
Book an Appointment with Your Dentist Today!
At The ToothBooth, we help you take care of your dental health. Dr. Nawar Taha, DDS, specializes in many forms of dentistry, including preventative, restorative, and cosmetic to help you get the smile you want and deserve. We offer personalized dental care in a warm, inviting environment and take time to give you the individual attention and care you need. We help people of all ages gain confidence by helping them improve their smile. Whether you need a pediatric dentist near me or need help with adult gum disease, our team is here for you. Give us a call at (832) 437-0841 or schedule an appointment online today!