Taking care of your teeth and gums is good for your oral health — but that’s not all. Did you know that the health of your mouth can also impact the health of your heart? The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) states that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. Taking care of your teeth and gums is essential for maintaining good oral health and protecting your heart. Keep reading to learn more about the mouth-heart connection and what you can do to prevent gum disease.
What Is Gum Disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population, according to the AAP. Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the gums and bone that support the teeth. The infection begins when plaque — a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth — hardens into tartar below and along the gum line. In the early stages, it is called gingivitis. Left untreated, symptoms of gum disease may progress into periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease that is difficult to treat, destroys surrounding bone tissue and often leads to tooth loss.
Because symptoms of gum disease are mild in the early phase, many patients do not recognize them until the condition progresses. Schedule a visit with your dentist if you suspect gum disease. Symptoms of infected gums include:
- Red, tender and swollen gums
- Gums that bleed easily while brushing and flossing
- Receding gum line
- Spaces developing between teeth causing periodontal pockets to form
- Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth
- Loose teeth that don't fit together when you bite
The Heart-Mouth Connection
While more research is needed, the main theory suggests that “bad bacteria” in the mouth are able to enter the bloodstream through the gums and attach themselves to the fatty deposits already present in blood vessels. Once there, the bacteria can form blood clots and contribute to blockages, which can reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart and trigger heart attacks. Furthermore, having gum disease can make existing heart problems worse.
Keep Your Gums and Heart Healthy
The good news is that by reducing the long-term bacteria present in your mouth and practicing good oral hygiene, you can improve your gum health and lower your risk for heart disease. Preventing gum disease includes:
- Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss daily.
- Maintain regular cleanings with your dentist to remove tartar or hardened plaque deposits.
- Perform routine gum exams at home and with your dentist for early detection of gum disease.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes avoiding foods high in sugar, and eating more fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid smoking and tobacco products, which increase the risk of gum disease.
When identified early, gum disease can be treated and even reversed. If it has been a while since your last visit, contact our office today to schedule an appointment. We will work with you to determine your risks and create an appropriate treatment plan to keep your mouth and heart healthy.