Recently, researchers have sharpened their focus on investigating the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health. While not everyone with gum diseases will develop heart problems, the two health conditions share a number of shared risk factors, including an unhealthy diet and smoking. Moreover, there is growing suspicion that gum disease can be an independent risk factor for developing heart disease.
The connection between gum disease, heart health, and overall wellness underscores the importance of keeping up with your oral health. A diligent oral hygiene regimen and the guidance of a trusted dental professional can help you protect not only your gums, but also your heart and circulatory system.
Heart Health and Gum Disease
Keeping your gums and teeth healthy through good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing is essential. In fact, according to studies from the American Heart Association (AHA), people that brush their teeth twice every day for about two minutes have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Another scientific study in Sweden discovered that gum disease was widespread in patients who suffered a heart attack for the first time.
Gum disease weakens the tissue surrounding your teeth, allowing bacteria to form plaque just below the gumline. This process can cause gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. As gum disease advances, the bacteria that infects the gums can also enter the bloodstream, where it can cause inflammation, damage blood vessels, and affect vital organs including the heart. As a result, people with poor oral health may have a higher rate of cardiovascular issues like stroke and heart attack than those with good oral health.
Taking Care of Your Gums
Early detection is one of the best defenses against gum disease and its related health complications. By staying diligent about your oral hygiene and keeping an eye out for the common signs of gum disease, you can address gum health issues before they become severe. Some of the common signs of gum disease include:
- Persistent bad breath
- Swollen, tender, or red gums
- Receding gums
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
Be sure to contact your dentist as soon as possible if you notice any of the above symptoms. If detected early enough, treating mild gum disease (gingivitis) is a straightforward process that primarily involves keeping up with your oral hygiene. This should include brushing and flossing your teeth twice or more daily and seeing a dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and evaluation.
If your gum disease has progressed to more advanced stages, known as periodontitis, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing. During this procedure, your dentist will remove plaque and tartar deposits from below the gumline and smooth the roots of your teeth to help them bond with your gums. In the most severe cases of gum disease, you may require oral surgery such as a gum tissue graft, pocket reduction procedure, or guided tissue regeneration.
Your oral health is a vital part of your overall well-being and quality of life, affecting your ability to chew comfortably, speak intelligibly, and smile confidently. With the potential links between gum disease and heart disease, you have yet another reason to prioritize your oral health. If you have any questions or concerns about your oral or general health, be sure to contact your dentist or general care physician.