When you think about keeping your heart healthy, do you think about flossing? Probably not, but a growing body of research implies that we should. Numerous studies confirm that your oral health influences your general wellbeing, as well as vice versa. Recently, experts have begun to examine the relationship between the gums and the heart, and you may find yourself flossing more often after learning the results. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between gum disease and heart health.
What is Gum Disease?
The plaque and tartar that build up in your mouth throughout the day are brimming with bacteria. Not only do these bacteria cause cavities, but they can also attack and infect your gum tissue. This is called gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. While you may notice that your gums are inflamed and bleed easily, gingivitis is very easy to accidentally overlook.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease. At this point, the infection has grown strong enough to cause noticeable discomfort and permanent damage. It will eventually reach the jawbone and destroy the connective tissues that hold your teeth in place, eventually causing them to fall out.
How Are Gum Disease and Heart Health Connected?
So how can an infection in your gums impact the health of your heart? While more research is needed to fully understand the connection, studies continue to suggest that the presence of gum disease can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 20%. Experts suspect the two main culprits between this connection are:
- Harmful bacteria: Researchers believe that if the harmful bacteria that causes gum disease escapes into the blood stream, it could travel to the heart. Once there, it could cause endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart’s inner linings.
- Widespread inflammation: Experts also suggest that a prolonged immune response to gum disease could spread inflammation throughout the body. This could possibly lead to the narrowing or clogging of important arteries.
How is Gum Disease Treated?
If you notice that your gums are inflamed, sensitive, or bleed easily when you brush or floss, you should see your dentist right away. The earlier gum disease is diagnosed, the easier it can be treated. For instance, you may be able to treat gingivitis at home with improved oral hygiene or a specialized mouthwash from your dentist. However, in more severe cases, your dentist may suggest a periodontal disease treatment like scaling and root planning or antibiotic therapy. These treatments are designed to fully eliminate the harmful bacteria and protect against reinfection.
While there’s no hard evidence that treating gum disease will protect your heart, the connection is still very compelling. Thankfully, you can easily prevent gum disease by brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes, regularly using floss and mouthwash, and getting your dental checkup twice a year. When you take care of your smile, your whole body will thank you!
About the Practice
At Zumbro Family Dental in Rochester, MN, we want to help you stop gum disease before it has a chance to begin. That’s why Dr. Nicholas Brong encourages his patients to get their dental checkups and cleanings every six months. During your appointment, he’ll carefully inspect your mouth for warning signs of gum disease so that any issues can be detected as early as possible. If you’re concerned about gum disease, feel free to contact him at his website or at (507) 288-1066.