The Gum and Heart Disease Connection

Tooth in shape of heart to indicate a connection

 

When you don’t take adequate care of your teeth and gums, you can end up with excess bacterial growth and plaque buildup that leads to gum disease. It starts as gingivitis, or the gum inflammation that is the earliest stage of gum disease, and can progress to periodontal disease, which puts the health of your teeth at risk. Gum disease is not only a risk to your oral health but has also been linked to cardiovascular problems. Want to make sure that gum disease and heart disease don’t become a problem for you? Take good care of your teeth and gums. 

How Gum Disease Impacts Your Oral Health

In most cases, gum disease starts with some mild symptoms of gum irritation due to insufficient oral hygiene. When bacteria and plaque build up along the gums, you may first notice that your gums bleed during brushing. This may be followed by swollen, red, tender, and bleeding gums, which you may notice even when you’re not brushing. At this point, your gums are irritated. However, your teeth have not yet been affected by this irritation, so the gum disease is still reversible with diligent oral hygiene or professional cleaning. 

However, if you continue to be overly lax in your dental hygiene habits, bacteria and plaque continue to build up along and under the gum line. You may start to experience tooth decay as the acids released by the bacteria attack your enamel, and the sticky plaque will begin to harden into tartar. Because tartar can’t be brushed away but must be removed by your dentist, it can make it hard for you to clean your teeth and gums properly. Your gums then become further irritated by bacteria and plaque buildup.

As gum disease progresses, your irritated gums begin to pull away from your teeth, forming pockets that open up to collect food, plaque, and bacteria and eventually become infected. When that infection takes hold, the bone and connective tissues that hold your teeth in place can begin to break down. Your teeth can become loose and, eventually, you could lose your teeth. As though these consequences were not already severe enough, gum disease is linked to heart disease, too. In fact, people with gum disease have 2-3 times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events.

How Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease Are Related

There is a clear link between gum disease and heart health. Gum disease causes inflammation in the mouth, but that inflammation can eventually spread to other parts of the body. Moreover, when inflammation in your body is chronic, or long-term, it becomes a contributor to many different health problems. Chronic inflammation is also a key factor in heart disease characterized by, you guessed it, plaque buildup. 

Of course, the fatty plaque that builds up in your arteries is quite different from the plaque in your mouth, but they both cause significant problems for your health. Avoiding plaque buildup of any kind, then, as well as avoiding long-term inflammation anywhere in your body, is the goal. And, since gum disease is linked to heart disease, starting with your oral health is an excellent way to help ensure that you can maintain whole body health. 

Fighting Gum Disease and Heart Disease With Oral Hygiene

If you want to prevent periodontal disease and heart disease, you can start by improving your oral hygiene habits. Always brush your teeth twice per day, for two full minutes, using a dentist-recommended toothpaste. Also floss once per day, every single day, to help sweep away food debris, bacteria, and sticky film that eventually lead to plaque buildup and gingivitis. 

In addition, seeing your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning helps to get rid of plaque and tartar you may have missed. And, since your dentist can clearly see any areas you’re accidentally neglecting, they can give you tips for how to better reach certain areas of your teeth or gums. The guidance can help you ensure that you’re doing everything you can to keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you or your dentist notice signs of gingivitis or gum disease, you may need to improve your dental care habits or see your dentist more often until your gums are healthy again. Remember, you may not notice the early signs of gum disease, but it’s important to do what you can to fight. 

Knowing the signs of gum disease allows you to understand when you need to seek help from your dentist. Watch out for these signs of gum disease:

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Bleeding gums during or after brushing
  • Pus between teeth and gums
  • Receding gums
  • Pockets between teeth and gums
  • Bad breath
  • Hard brown deposits or buildup along the gum line
  • Loose teeth
  • Teeth that are moving apart
  • Changes in your bite or the way any dental appliances fit

Gum Disease and Heart Disease: The Whole Body Connection

Preventing gum disease is essential for your oral health. What’s more, it also plays a significant role in helping to preserve your overall health. With excellent oral hygiene, regular oral care from your dentist, and healthy food and beverage choices, you could stop both gum disease and heart disease before they start. Even better, you could improve the health of your whole body in the process. 

To find out more about how your oral health is connected to your whole-body health, reserve your copy of If Your Mouth Could Talk today. Written by renowned dental expert, dentist, and dad Dr. Kami Hoss, this book is the culmination of over 20 years of research into the connection between oral and overall health. Discover how taking care of your mouth could help you begin a road to a longer, healthier future.

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread

https://www.healthline.com/health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease

https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/gingivitis-periodontal-disease

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