Did you know that your oral health can directly affect your heart and link to heart disease? There is evidence that shows two specific links between oral health and heart disease. The first is gum disease. If you have a moderate or advanced stage of gum disease, your risk of heart disease is significantly higher than a person who has healthy gums. And, secondly, the health of your teeth and gums can indicate to physicians that there are potential issues for a range of diseases and conditions, one of which is with your heart.
At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we make it standard procedure to not only check your teeth but also your gums and mouth in general. We want to stay apprised of your oral health and your heart health. To give you more information on this very important connection, we are addressing how the two are related, symptoms and signs that there may be significant oral problems, and what you can do to help prevent them in this article.
The Relationship Between Your Oral Health and Your Heart
There have been several theories as to why there is a connection between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease. At the present time, the exact nature of the cause-and-effect relationship is still a bit unclear. Here are the primary causes from our research:
When you have poor oral health with infected gums causing gingivitis and periodontitis, the bacteria travel to your blood vessels and cause inflammation and damage. When the bacteria reach the heart, they can attach to any damaged area and cause inflammation. As a result, tiny blood clots, heart attack, and stroke may occur. Illnesses such as endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart, and atherosclerosis, clogged arteries, are likely when bacteria gets to the heart.
Some of the characteristics of aging include accumulating chronic diseases and conditions, including poor oral health. Tooth loss, periodontal disease, and dry mouth can add up as a person ages and contribute to poor dental health. When an older person has poor oral health they can also have higher levels of inflammation, poor diet quality, and possible conditions such as diabetes, disabilities, and cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal disease and other infectious diseases can contribute to a lower immune system.
When there is inflammation in the body, the immune response can begin a subsequent trail of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain. For a person with heart disease of blood vessels, inflammation caused by gum disease can add to the deterioration of the blood vessels. High cholesterol can be a facilitator as well.
Symptoms and Signs of Gum Disease
You should be aware of the symptoms and warning signs of gum disease that can lead to issues with your heart. Red and sensitive gums that bleed during brushing, flossing, or during a dental cleaning can trigger endocarditis, a rare but serious heart condition. According the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), you can experience these symptoms with gum disease, even when it is in the early stages:
- Red, swollen, gums that are sore to the touch
- Bleeding gums when you eat, brush or floss
- Signs of infection around the gums and teeth (such as pus)
- Visible recession of the gums
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- Loose teeth
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have infected gums and should make an appointment with your dental professional.
How to Prevent and Treat Gum Disease
The best way to protect yourself against gum disease developing is to practice good oral hygiene and have routine dental examinations. Being proactive about your oral health can protect yourself from developing a connection between oral health and heart disease.
Engaging in good oral hygiene starts with proper brushing, twice a day with a soft-bristled brush as recommended by The American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA also recommends that you use an ADA-accepted toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dental hygienist for regular six-month or, at the very least, annual cleanings. Additionally, rinse twice a day with an ADA-accepted antimicrobial mouthwash.
Other habits that can help to prevent gum disease include (1) eating a healthy diet with vegetables and fruits and (2) not smoking or using other tobacco products.
You can’t cure gum disease but you can manage it with the help of a dentist or periodontist. There are several surgical and nonsurgical procedures to treat gingivitis and periodontitis. Professional treatment is the only way to effectively treat and manage these conditions.
Periodontists are now using laser light therapy to kill the bacteria that cause diseases and to sterilize the treatment area. There are pros and cons to this therapy.
Pros to laser light therapy:
- Laser light is very precise so only the diseased tissue is treated and the healthy tissue is left intact.
- Laser light therapy is less invasive than traditional gum surgery, so there is less pain and discomfort.
- Recovery is shorter than with traditional gum surgery.
There is one major disadvantage of periodontal laser light therapy and that is it is not always effective when treating advanced periodontal disease.
Contact Us to Schedule an Appointment with Our Dentists in Cary and Holly Springs Today
If you are seeing signs or experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call us to make an appointment. We will assess your oral health and determine the options that make sense for your situation. Don’t allow your oral health to deteriorate so that it can affect your heart. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.