Eating healthy and exercising are common ways to protect your heart health, but did you know that your dentist can also play an important role in keeping your heart in good shape? Regular dental care and prompt treatment for oral health problems can help lower your risk of having heart problems.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Heart Disease
What does oral health have to do with your risk of heart disease? Research has shown that people with poor oral health are more likely to also have some form of heart disease. The connection lies in the fact that both heart disease and gum disease are caused by inflammation in the body. When it comes to your heart, inflammation can cause your arteries to harden and narrow, making blood flow more difficult. This can manifest itself in the form of a heart attack (insufficient blood flow to the heart itself) or a stroke (insufficient blood flow to the brain). Inflammation in the mouth is a hallmark sign of gum disease, which is classified either as gingivitis or periodontitis. So, what causes this inflammation? Bacteria! And as unpleasant as it may sound, your mouth is full of them. A mouth that isn’t properly cared for allows the number of bacteria to run rampant, and this becomes a problem when they’re able to enter into your bloodstream from the mouth, which can then lead to the inflammatory heart problems mentioned above. In short, those who have chronic gum problems have the highest risk of having heart disease.
Gum Disease and Heart Problems
Gum disease, such as periodontal disease, occurs when bacteria invade your gums. This bacteria can end up entering your bloodstream and affecting your heart. Gum problems typically start as inflammation known as gingivitis. When you don’t have gingivitis treated, it can turn into periodontal disease. Those who have chronic gum problems, such as gingivitis or advanced gum disease, have the highest risk of having heart disease.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
It’s important to watch for warning signs of gum disease. If you notice any, you should see your dentist for treatment to manage this oral health problem. Symptoms of gum disease include the following:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums, which can occur with brushing, flossing or eating
- Gums that are receding or moving away from your teeth
- Pus near your gums or teeth
- Frequent bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Teeth that are shifting or moving away from surrounding teeth
Diagnosing gum disease early offers the best chance at treating it and preventing it from getting worse and causing an increased risk of heart disease. Leaving gum disease untreated can put your heart at risk while also causing other problems, such as tooth loss.
Caring for Your Gums
Maintaining good oral health habits will certainly help lower your risk of gum disease and heart disease. You can do this by flossing on a regular basis in addition to brushing your teeth twice daily. This will minimize the number of bad bacteria in the oral cavity that leads to gum disease. You should also see your dentist twice a year for regular exams and cleaning to help keep your teeth and gums in good condition. During these cleaning, your dentist will check for early signs of gingivitis or gum disease and make recommendations to have it treated effectively. As with most things in dentistry, it’s always better to be proactive, rather than reactive!
Contact us at Brewery District Dental to schedule your next cleaning. Our dentist can clean your teeth and provide treatment if you have gum disease.