We are increasingly hearing that oral health is key to overall health, including heart disease. This fact is significant for those living with periodontal or gum disease, often undiagnosed. If our teeth are not sensitive or painful, we avoid the dentist, with visits to the physician rarely focusing on oral health.
You are at greater risk for heart disease if you have gum disease, than someone with healthy gums. In fact, people with gum disease are 2-3 times more at risk of having a heart attack or other type of cardiovascular event. In addition, your oral health can give doctors warning signs for various other diseases and conditions.
How are Oral Health and Heart Disease Related?
Oral health and heart disease are linked by spreading bacteria and other germs through your bloodstream from your mouth to other parts of your body. When these bacteria reach the heart, they attach themselves to any damaged area, causing inflammation. This inflammation may result in illnesses such as endocarditis(an infection of the heart’s inner lining), atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), and stroke, all linked to inflammation caused by oral bacteria.
A report from the University of Toronto identifies the missing link between gum disease and other systemic conditions, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, to the behaviour of cells known as neutrophils. Activated when bacteria attack the gums, neutrophils are the mechanism by which gum disease patients can contract other health issues. Given this information, it is crucial to protect one’s oral health to minimize the risk of developing other conditions.
Who Is at Risk?
Those with gingivitis, advanced periodontal disease, or other chronic gum conditions have the highest risk for heart disease caused by poor oral health. This is especially true if gingivitis remains undiagnosed and unmanaged and plaque on the teeth accumulates. Bacteria migrating into your bloodstream elevates C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this elevated protein can increase your heart disease and stroke risk.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
You may have gum disease if your gums:
- are red, swollen and sore.
- bleed when you eat, brush or floss.
- show signs of infection or pus around the gums and teeth.
- are “pulling away” from the teeth.
Other warning signs include:
- bad breath,
- a bad taste in your mouth,
- movement of teeth or loose teeth.
The best way to protect yourself from gum and heart disease is through good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations. At Kesteven Dental Care Studio, we recommend brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled brush that fits your mouth comfortably, so it adequately reaches every tooth surface. Brushing and daily flossing, accompanied by regular visits to your dentist, are excellent proactive measures to staying healthy.
Being proactive about your oral health can protect you from developing a connection between oral health and heart disease, as well as keep your smile healthy, clean and beautiful throughout your life.
By Lori Kesteven