Everything in the body is connected. A knot in your neck can lead to radiating back pain, and a fever can make your entire body weak and achy. However, the connection between oral and cardiovascular health often goes overlooked. Research suggests that there is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease. Some experts believe that gum disease can actually lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. Others are still researching the connection, but they point out that early detection of periodontitis can lead to a timely diagnosis of heart disease. Whatever the exact link, one thing is certain: general dentistry, especially exams and cleanings, is essential for your systemic health. To learn more about dental care and heart health, contact our Corpus Christi practice today.
Gum Disease: The Basics
Oral bacteria are the underlying cause of gum disease. When bacteria first accumulate in your mouth, they will settle on your teeth and along your gum line. In this stage, also known as gingivitis, you may experience some minor inflammation, redness, and slight bleeding. Bacteria multiply quickly, and in a short time, the microbes can spread into your gums. As this happens, pockets will form in your soft tissues. The pockets will grow larger, eventually pulling away from the connecting bone tissue. In this phase, the condition is known as periodontitis. Symptoms include bone recession, sensitivity, significant gum inflammation, tooth loss, and bone recession.
The Periodontal-Cardiovascular Connection
Research shows that patients with gum disease are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. This could be because certain risk factors contribute to both conditions. These considerations include:
- Being overweight
Certain experts posit that oral bacteria can also enter the blood stream, raising your risk for heart attack and stroke. Some believe that these bacteria cling to fat cells in the blood. In this way, they form clots that block the flow of blood to your heart and brain. Other professionals believe that oral bacteria in your blood stream will inflame your arteries, constricting blood flow.
Oral Care for Early Heart Disease Diagnosis
The American Heart Association® cautions that more research is needed to be sure of the connection between gum and heart disease. Periodontal care alone will not eliminate the risk of heart attack and stroke. Proper diet and exercise, low cholesterol, and a healthy blood pressure are all essential for your cardiovascular wellness. Nevertheless, experts agree that oral exams can help to diagnose heart disease. Because both periodontitis and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors, a gum disease diagnosis can reveal your increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Preventing and Treating Gum Disease
Whether gum disease leads to heart disease or whether the two conditions are only peripherally related, it is important to protect your oral health. Regular dental care is vital. To protect your smile and, possibly, your life, you should:
- Brush your teeth at least twice every day
- Floss at least once
- Use antibacterial mouthwash
- Drink plenty of water
- Control your intake of sugar and other starches
- Stop smoking
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year for an exam and cleaning
- Schedule an appointment if you notice gum inflammation, bleeding, or any other signs of gum disease
Contact Us to Protect Your Smile and Your Heart
At our practice, your overall health is our top priority. Protect your systemic wellness and contact us today to schedule an exam.