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The Surprising Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Health
The Surprising Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Health

The Surprising Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Health

Want to know if you’re at risk for heart disease? Check out your oral hygiene.

Research shows that people with periodontal disease (serious gum infection) are almost twice as likely to have heart disease – and their risk could be greater than those with high cholesterol.

What’s the connection? In a word, bacteria.

In periodontal disease, the bacteria festering in infected gum tissue around your teeth break down the barrier between your gums and the underlying connective tissue, causing inflammation or swelling.  When you chew your food or brush your teeth, bacteria can enter your bloodstream, where it moves to other parts of your circulatory system. Ultimately, they attach to fatty deposits in the heart’s blood vessels, leading to the formation of arterial plaque and the onset of atherosclerosis. These deposits can narrow your arteries or break loose and clog them entirely, causing blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Clearly, there is a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. To help protect your gums – and potentially your heart – look out for these warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums or other painful conditions in your mouth.
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, or when you eat hard or tough food.
  • Gums that are receding from your teeth, causing them to look longer than before.
  • Loose or separating teeth.
  • Pus deposits between your gums and teeth.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • A change in the way your teeth meet when you bite down.
  • A change in the fit of your partial dentures.

Getting to the heart of the matter

It’s easy to ignore these indicators of periodontal disease, which is why it’s important to maintain your oral health – especially if you already have or have a family history of heart disease. Here’s what doctors and dentists recommend:

·       Brush and floss your teeth daily and consider rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of bacteria.

·       If you have an existing heart problem, make sure your dentist is aware of it.

·       Conscientiously follow your doctor’s and dentist’s instructions, and use prescribed medications, such as antibiotics, as directed.

·       Keep clear of sugary or acidic foods that encourage bacteria to thrive.

Most importantly, maintain regular check-ups with your dentist.  Depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, your dentist will decide the best way to treat your condition. It may merely require a professional cleaning. However, if your condition is more serious and has already progressed to periodontitis, more aggressive treatment may be required. The most effective will probably involve scaling and planning, a procedure that cleans between the teeth and gums to remove the infection. Your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic to help eliminate the infection.

If you suspect you may or a loved one may have gum disease – even if you are a conscientious brusher and flosser – don’t hesitate to contact your dentist for an assessment as promptly as possible. Both your oral health and heart health may be at stake.

If you live in the greater Merced area, contact El Portal Dental Group at (209) 385-1479.  Our dental health experts are here to help you keep your mouth and your smile healthy and bright all year long.