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The link between gum disease and heart disease

Posted on February 6, 2020 in General oral health


smiling man looking out the window with coffeeHeart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and studies show a relationship between heart disease and gum disease.  February is American Heart Month and a great time to learn how a healthy smile can lead to a healthy heart.

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is an infection and inflammation of the gum tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place. In its early stage, it’s called gingivitis and can cause inflamed, red gums that bleed. If not managed with proper daily oral care, gingivitis may worsen and become periodontitis. Periodontitis is a form of gum disease that causes the gum tissue to pull away from the tooth allowing for further tooth decay, loss of bone and eventually tooth loss.

Oral bacteria may be the link to heart disease

The main cause of gum disease is harmful oral bacteria found in tooth plaque and tartar. Oral bacteria can travel through the gum tissues into the bloodstream, all over the body and into the heart valves and heart. The bacteria can trigger inflammation throughout the body which may cause a narrowing of important arteries where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.1 And, it may cause an infection in the bloodstream that could result in heart attack. Gum disease can increase a person’s risk of heart disease by as much as 20 percent.2

Reduce your risk

Prevention of gum disease is possible with regular dental checkups and proper oral hygiene by brushing twice and flossing daily. Fluoride toothpaste can help reduce and prevent tooth decay, and the use of an antimicrobial mouth rinse may reduce bacteria and plaque. Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you experience any of these gum disease symptoms:

  • Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Pain while chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Loose teeth

If you already have gum disease, it’s important you:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is strongly associated with gum disease, it weakens the immune system which makes it harder to fight any infections.
  • Floss at least once daily. Flossing helps remove plaque beyond your toothbrush’s reach.
  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and don’t forget to brush your tongue to remove bacteria. Brushing helps remove food and plaque from your teeth and gums.
  • Use a mouthwash. Mouthwashes can help reduce plaque, prevent gingivitis and can reduce the speed that tartar develops.
  • Get regular dental cleanings. A professional cleaning is the only way to remove tarter and allows your dentist to detect other symptoms before they become more serious.

Contribute to your heart health by maintaining good oral health habits and protect your healthy smile, too.

1 Heart disease and oral health: role of oral bacteria in heart plaque, Harvard health Publishing - https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/heart-disease-oral-health

2 The link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3100856/