It’s your dentist’s job to tell you about the health of your mouth, and we know that can get a little dry. But did you realize your oral health may actually affect your heart health?? Although researchers are still establishing exactly how this connection works, there is a lot of evidence to suggest those with gum disease, an advanced form of gingivitis, can actually lead to an increased chance of heart attack or stroke. Although we may not know exactly why gum disease can lead to heart problems, we want our patients to know how to avoid serious health complications (spoiler alert: it has a lot to do with regular brushing and flossing!).
Given the complexity of the human body, it’s an incredibly difficult task to identify and explain direct processes of cause-and-effect; as such, we have been unsuccessful at explaining precisely why and how gum disease and heart disease are linked, but we are aware there is a connection and that it’s in the interest of our health and yours to be familiar with the long-term risks poor dental health can have on the body. Succinctly put, there are tremendous amounts of data that have demonstrated those with compromised oral health and long-term periodontal inflammation are at a significantly higher risk to develop heart disease and increase the likelihood of the individual to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.
At present, the culprits most suspected of triggering this chain reaction are bacteria and inflammation. Some researchers have suggested that due to the vascular nature of the gums, infection and bacteria below the gum line can become dislodged and enter the blood stream with disruption. When this happens it can: trigger inflammation through the body, damage blood vessels, or possibly form clots.
Your blood stream is a direct line to your heart, and the bacteria associated with gum disease can easily find its way into your heart and then cause significant damage. Inflammation, on the other hand, leads to hardened arteries and makes it more difficult for blood flow to reach your heart; this additional strain can easily trigger a heart attack, particularly if you were already susceptible in the first place. Gum disease comes with a handful of standard symptoms, and inflammation is one of the most common. Left untreated, it isn’t too far a stretch to suggest the long-term implications can move beyond your oral health and affect the rest of your body’s systems.
Ultimately the relationship between gum disease and heart disease is primarily based off long-standing conditions; that is to say, if you are diagnosed with gingivitis and visit your dentist to resolve the issue, there isn’t reason to worry about suffering a heart attack. It’s when problems are allowed to progress and fester that there is cause for concern in regards to the long-term damage that may be happening in the body without receiving proper treatment and care.
A study titled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States* estimated that 47.2 percent of American adults have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent. It’s an easy thing to miss by yourself, and your dentist can always give you more information about your health. If you are following proper home care treatment, visiting the dentist every 6 months, and have not been informed of any serious issues by the doctor, then there is little cause for concern. As always, if you have absolutely any worries at all about the health of your gums or overall oral health, then call our office for an appointment. It’s always easier and more affordable to treat the problem before it is allowed to take hold. Keep brushing and flossing!
*Eke, P. I., Dye, B. A., Wei, L., Thornton-Evans, G. O., & Genco, R. J. (2012, August 30). Prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010 [Electronic version]. Journal of Dental Research, 91(10), 914-920. doi:10.1177/0022034512457373