With all the things we have to do in a day, it is not surprising that oral care sometimes gets pushed to the bottom of the list. However, a connection between dental problems (specifically gum disease) and heart disease makes tooth brushing and flossing important for overall health. Studies show that people with moderate to advanced gum disease experience higher risks for heart disease than people with healthy gums.
Known as gingivitis in early development and periodontitis in later stages, gum disease is caused by plaque that collects on and below the gum line. According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), having chronic gum disease raises chances for suffering a heart attack. Gum disease might promote the formation of blood clots, which reduces blood flow to the heart, raises blood pressure, and boosts risk for heart attack. Gum disease might cause blood clots in a few ways:
- Some experts believe bacteria from infected gums can get into the bloodstream, adhere to blood vessel walls, and contribute to the production of blood clots.
- Some researchers suggest that blood clots may also be produced as a result of the inflammation caused by gum disease.
In addition, research shows that some risk factors for heart disease match those for gum disease and other dental problems. These include poor nutrition, tobacco use, or the development of diabetes. According to the AGD, many systemic diseases have oral symptoms, and dentists help promote good overall health by examining patients for signs of oral pain, infection, and inflammation.
Warning Signs of Gum Disease
Often progressing undiagnosed, gum disease affects roughly 80 percent of adults in the U.S. Certain warning signs may indicate the development of gum disease:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums while brushing and/or flossing
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- The appearance of gums pulling away from the teeth
- Loose or separating teeth
Prevention of Gum Disease
Stopping gum disease is important for a beautiful smile and a healthy body. People can prevent gum disease and other dental problems with regular brushing and flossing, which helps to remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar. It is also important to schedule annual dental checkups, and regular cleanings. People with heart disease should make their condition known to their dentist as well as informing them of any prescribed medications.