Gum disease is more widespread than you might think; in fact, according to the CDC, almost half of US adults over age 30 have a form of gum infection. If you’re in this group, you might think bleeding gums and eventual tooth loss are your biggest worries. Unfortunately, the problem could potentially be much larger; you could be at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Here’s what you need to know about the link between gum disease and your heart.
Defining Gum Disease
Gum disease is also called periodontal disease. It occurs when the bacteria from plaque and tartar create an infection in the gums and cause inflammation. The earliest symptoms are bleeding, redness, and swelling. The most severe stage of gum disease is periodontitis, which can eventually lead to losing your teeth if untreated.
The Link Between Gum Disease and the Heart
According to various studies, people with gum disease are more likely to suffer heart problems; in fact, Harvard Medical School found that the risk of heart attack or stroke was two or three times higher.
It has yet to be proven that gum disease is a direct cause of cardiovascular issues, but many researchers believe that oral bacteria may play a role. When the gums become infected, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, causing inflammation in other areas; this may worsen already existing heart issues. Another theory is that inflamed gums can contribute to atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, thus making a heart attack more likely.
It’s also possible that gum disease and heart disease may be linked because they share similar risk factors. Diabetes, for example, can make you more vulnerable to both gum infection and cardiovascular problems. Habits such as smoking and eating poorly can also have an impact.
Protect Your Gums, Protect Your Health
It’s uncertain whether healthy gums guarantee a healthy heart, but your oral health does have a major impact on your overall health. An infection in the gums or the teeth that becomes abscessed may spread to other areas of the body; by keeping your mouth clean, you can avoid a lot of issues in the long run.
Be sure to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once. If you have trouble cleaning every area of your mouth with traditional floss, consider interdental brushes or water picks that many find easier to use. Keep up with your regular dental visits, and set up an appointment right away if you have bleeding gums. Be vigilant in protecting your oral health; it could ultimately help protect the rest of your body.
About the Practice
At Monarch Dentistry, Drs. Neil Flenniken and Suzan Rismani-Flenniken offer comprehensive dental care for the whole family. They can help patients who speak a variety of languages, including English, French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and Persian. They also offer a number of preventive dentistry services; to set up an appointment, visit their website or call (703) 714-7374.