Your smile often reflects the happiness or joy you’re feeling in the moment. Did you know it can also reflect your heart health? Studies have recently cemented a connection between oral health and your overall health.
Periodontal disease is a strong indicator of whether or not you have heart disease. The debate has raged for some time now, but it seems as if there have been some recent breakthroughs that make the connection between periodontal health and heart disease clear. Here’s how it works.
What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection in the gums caused by genetics or poor oral hygiene or a combination of the two. Gum disease often goes undiagnosed, or a patient may try and ignore the issue for a while. Here are some common symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Red swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Pus and other signs of infection at the sight
- Gums appear to be pulling away from the teeth
- Halitosis or a bad taste in your mouth
- Tooth pain
- Teeth feel loose or wobbly
How are gum disease and heart disease connected?
Recently, the American Heart Association made some startling connections. Although the findings did not conclusively prove gum disease caused heart disease, it showed some intriguing correlations.
If you are in the moderate or advanced stages of gum disease, you are at a greater risk for heart disease. Secondly, your oral health is a great indicator of your overall health. In other words, your doctor can pick up on warning signs of other conditions by studying your oral health.
Bacteria are what connect gum disease to heart disease, or rather, it’s not bacteria but specifically your body’s reaction to bacteria – inflammation. Bacteria from the mouth can flow through the bloodstream to the heart. This bacteria cause issues in your heart by adhering to damaged areas and causing inflammation. The bacteria can also harden, causing a blockage. Bacteria affect the heart valves, so any patients with artificial heart valves will want to take special care.
Gum infection can trigger endocarditis – when bacteria infect the inner lining of the heart. Bacterial growth on the inside of the heart can disrupt the heart’s function, specifically the valves. Tooth loss patterns correlate to coronary artery disease. Lastly, there’s evidence that people with diabetes benefit from periodontal care.
Although it’s not conclusively proven that periodontal diseases, like gingivitis or untreated cavities, cause heart disease or hardening of the arteries, it certainly is a good indicator of what else is going on in a person’s body.
Who is at risk?
People with advanced stages of periodontal disease or gingivitis are at the highest risk for heart disease. This is especially true if the condition is not managed or goes untreated. You may not even have swollen or painful gums, but you may still be at risk if you have accumulated plaque or have poor oral hygiene.
What to do
The best measures, in this case, are preventative. The best thing you can do for your health overall is to make sure you have excellent oral health. Here’s how:
- Brush: make sure you’re using soft bristles and the correct form so that all the bristles are touching all the contours of your teeth.
- Floss: using the traditional method or with a hydro flosser. Flossing is essential to getting all of the scraps of food from between your teeth.
- Rinse: antibacterial mouthwash helps rid your mouth of harmful bacteria that could affect your heart.
- Regular check-ups: routine visits to the dentist are a must. Especially if you believe that you may already have an issue with swollen gums or an achy tooth. Go see your dentist to ensure the issue doesn’t become a larger health risk. Make sure you choose professionals, like those at Andrew Satlin D.D.S.
It’s important to think of our whole bodies when trying to maintain our health. Some people were already aware that the mouth-heart connection was strong, and these recent studies have strengthened this connection even further.
By being proactive about your oral health, you can also keep abreast of your heart health with preventative measures like brushing, flossing, rinsing, and visiting your dentist. The word is out – good oral health means good heart health.