There’s more and more evidence coming out about the possible link between gum disease and heart disease. Studies point to the conclusion that the bacteria and gum disease can travel through the body and trigger inflammation of the heart vessels. This inflammation can cause an infection in the heart valves. A revolutionary study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that almost half of American adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease.
So you may be wondering how heart disease and gum disease are connected, and a number of theories exist. Because the bacteria that infects the gums leads to gingivitis and periodontitis, when they enter the bloodstream and go throughout the body, they can cause inflammation and damage, which can also affect your heart leading to heart attack and stroke. Studies show that there has been evidence of oral bacteria found in blood vessels far away from the mouth.
With that said there has been no conclusive evidence because of third variable that may be at play, like smoking which is a risk factor for both conditions. Other issues such as lack of exercise and reduced access to healthcare may play a part as well.
We spoke to local Kingston dentist Dr. Chater who explained that even though a correlation between tooth loss and heart disease exist, smoking makes the risk for both of them alarmingly higher. A person’s age also plays a big role in the susceptibility of heart disease and gum disease.
But there is great news! Both gum disease and heart disease can be prevented. Mild gum disease also known as gingivitis can be avoided with proper oral hygiene. It’s good to have regular dental cleanings as part of your oral hygiene routine whether you’re at risk for the disease or not. You should also make sure to floss and brush your teeth at least twice a day. In addition, you should change your toothbrush regularly and see your dentist at least every six months for check-ups.
Your dental health is just as important as the rest of your body so it should be checked out regularly as well. This is because we often don’t know that a problem exists until it’s too far along to be addressed properly. Issues related to oral health can sometimes fester silently as with high blood pressure. Nothing beats visiting your dentist because they are better equipped to make judgment calls about your oral health, in addition to proper dental hygiene and upkeep like flossing and brushing.
You can also do a quick exam for yourself with the help of a mirror if you haven’t seen a dentist in a while. There are a few warning signs you should look for such as:
- Persistent bad breath
- Receding gums·
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Loose or separating teeth
You should visit your dentist if you have any of the above symptoms. It’s very important because your risk of heart disease could become less or return to normal if you manage your gum disease effectively.
Although in some cases you would need to deal with some of the consequences of gum disease that have already occurred. This may be treatments for heart valve infections. In some cases a damaged heart valve may need to be replaced. And in all of these cases a visit to the dentist may be required because of the clear link between gum disease and heart disease.
Further study needs to be done to gain clearer insight into the association between heart disease and gum disease because correlation is not causation and more information is needed to come to a conclusion.
The Bottom Line
Whether there’s a direct or indirect link, the importance of proper dental care can’t be overstated. Everyone should implement a good oral health routine to take care of their teeth and gums. This includes regular check-ups and not smoking. The advantages of this change in lifestyle will affect not only your oral health but your overall health.
As more studies come out highlighting the link between heart disease and gum disease, the best thing we can all do is take care of our overall health and especially our oral health.
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