Gum (periodontal) disease is an inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth. Caused when bacteria settle and thrive in pockets in the mouth, it can result in redness, severe discomfort, infection, and ultimately tooth loss as the gums recede. Heart or cardiovascular disease, meanwhile, is a blanket term for a number of heart conditions that include diseased vessels, structural problems, and blood clots. Gum disease and heart disease are each formidable illnesses in their own right, but what few people realize is that there is a tangible link between the two. Understanding this link can help you reduce the chances of experiencing both.
How has gum disease been linked to heart disease?
Although exact cause and effect is difficult to prove, research shows that poor oral health, which can eventually lead to gum disease, can increase the chances of heart disease in certain cases. The clearest link is through inflammation, which leads to hardened arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis) that make it more difficult for blood to flow to the heart, making a person with inflammation from gum disease more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.
Furthermore, research has shown that the bacteria present in gum disease, if allowed to spread to the bloodstream, can increase the thickness of your carotid arteries, making it harder for blood to flow to the brain and causing a stroke.
Not directly – however, studies have shown that gum disease may actually be a risk factor for diseases of the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks in the long run.
Should individuals with heart disease be cautious of dental procedures?
Pre-existing heart conditions can put you at risk of bacterial endocarditis – an infection of the heart’s inner lining or valves – if a dental procedure is performed. That’s why it’s crucial to talk to your dentist before any sort of procedure is performed. There are solutions that can allow you to perform the procedure safely, as long as precautions are taken ahead of time.
How do I know if I have gum disease, and has it progressed to the point of risking heart health?
Signs of gum disease include inflamed, red, sore, or bleeding gums, any kind of pain or discomfort in the gum tissue surrounding the teeth, receding gums and tooth loss. The further the disease progresses, the greater the risk to your heart health, so it is crucial to take effective measures and receive an early diagnosis.
What precautions can I take to prevent these diseases?
Brushing your teeth on a daily basis, using floss and mouth rinse, avoiding excessive sugar, and treating cavities promptly are the most effective ways to prevent gum disease. However, your oral health is also an indicator of an overall healthy lifestyle, which helps prevent heart disease. Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep and relaxation are some of the simple, yet important factors towards ideal heart health.
The best preventative measure against gum disease and other oral health concerns is scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings twice a year. Schedule your appointment today at Esthetix Dental Spa in New York, NY.