More than 80 percent of Americans are living with some form of gum disease, which often goes unnoticed and untreated. Yet an increasing body of research shows that oral health has a tremendous impact on overall physical health. In fact, there is now evidence of a strong link between dental health and heart disease. Here is what you must know.
What Is the Connection?
The connection between oral health and heart disease appears to be due to bacteria. It is possible for bacteria in the mouth to spread through the blood stream to other parts of the body. If they reach the heart, the bacteria can attach to virtually any area and cause inflammation. Endocarditis, or an infection of the heart’s inner lining, as well as clogged arteries and even stroke have all been linked to inflammation from bacteria that originated in the mouth.
Who Is at Risk?
Patients with unmanaged chronic gum conditions such as gingivitis or advanced gum disease are at the highest risk, as the bacteria associated with gum infection can easily enter the blood stream. Even if your gums are not noticeably inflamed, though, accumulated plaque or tartar can also increase your risk. In some cases, oral bacteria in the blood stream can cause elevated C-reactive protein, a marker for inflamed blood vessels that can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Signs of Gum Disease
Although early stage gum disease does not always cause noticeable symptoms, if you have any of the following signs, you should see your dentist right away:
- Red, swollen, or sore gums
- Bleeding gums when eating, brushing, or flossing
- Pus or other signs of infection in your mouth
- Gums that appear to be "pulling away" from your teeth
- Frequent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Loose or shifting teeth
Strong oral hygiene routines and regular dental exams are the best protection against gum disease. Brush twice per day with a soft-bristled toothbrush that easily reaches all surfaces of your teeth. Always use an American Dental Association (ADA) approved toothpaste. Floss at least once per day, and see your dentist twice per year for a professional cleaning and exam.
Gum disease is a widespread problem in the United States. Untreated, it could lead to a variety of physical health issues, including raising your risk for heart disease. Taking proactive steps to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy is a relatively simple way to protect both your smile and your overall health.
Dr. Jamrozek is a respected dentist located in West Milford, MA, who is an advocate of pain-free dentistry. If you are ready for a trustworthy, professional, and caring dentist in West Milford, we invite you to make an appointment today at 973-728-3779.