There are so many established risk factors for heart disease – a high fat intake, family history, and lack of exercise are among them. One risk factor for heart disease that is not mentioned as often is poor gum health. That's right – if your gums are unhealthy, you're at an increased risk for heart disease. So, taking better care of your heart starts with taking good care of your mouth. Here's a closer look at the association between heart disease and gum disease and some related steps you can take to decrease your risk of heart-related ailments.
How are heart disease and gum disease related?
Studies have demonstrated that those with chronic gum disease are at an increased risk of developing heart disease when compared to those who do not have gum disease. It is thought that the oral bacteria that cause gum disease are to blame for this relationship. In one study, it was shown that Porphyromonas gingivalis, a species of bacteria found in the mouth, attaches itself to the lining of the aorta, the major artery leading out of the heart. Once present in the lining of this artery, it causes an inflammatory response, which increases the risk of the artery becoming clogged and leading to a heart attack.
If you develop gum disease, this is a sign that you are suffering from an overgrowth of oral bacteria. There's a good chance that they are causing not only gum disease but also problems for your heart and circulatory system that may fly under the radar until you suffer a heart attack.
What are the signs of gum disease?
It's important to recognize the signs of gum disease, so you can take action to protect your heart if you suspect you're suffering from this condition. Signs of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums after brushing your teeth
- Red or swollen gums
- The formation of "pockets" in the gums
- Teeth that feel loose in their sockets
How should you treat gum disease?
If you notice signs of gum disease, take action by improving your oral care routine. Make sure you are brushing twice per day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash. Visit a dentist like Stephen P. Cary, DMD for a professional cleaning. If he or she finds that your gum disease is severe, a special type of deep cleaning, called dental scaling, may be recommended. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to get severe gum disease under control more quickly.
Even if you do not notice signs of gum disease currently, you should pay close attention to your oral health to ensure you don't develop this condition and put yourself at an increased risk for heart disease. Keep up with your oral care routine, and don't skip your dentist appointments. Your heart depends on it!