Did you know that gum disease doesn’t just affect your gums and teeth? You may never have given a thought to the connection between your oral health and your heart health, but it’s an important link to be aware of for your overall health. Gum disease affects about half of all Americans over the age of 30, and heart disease is the leading killer in the United States for both men and women. Because these health problems are so common, it’s important to understand what they are, how they’re linked, and what you can do to prevent them.
What is Gum Disease?
Most people know that gum disease exists, but for many, the knowledge stops there. Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums caused by oral bacteria. This bacteria is contained in plaque, the sticky film that accumulates on the teeth during the day. If not removed promptly, this plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which cannot be removed without the assistance of a dental hygienist. Over time, irritation and inflammation increases, creating “pockets” around the teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth and bone loss, and influence other conditions, such as heart disease.
The Link Between Oral Health and Heart Disease
While it may seem strange that heart health and gum disease are linked, think about it: when the bacteria in the mouth influence bleeding gums, that bacteria then can enter the bloodstream, which circulates throughout the body. Once the bacteria has entered the system, it can attach to fatty deposits in the heart’s blood vessels. This can cause plaque formation along the arteries while increasing the chance for blood clots (which can cause heart attacks and strokes). Bacteria from gum disease can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cause bacterial endocarditis, which involves the lining of the heart and valves becoming enlarged. The risks of gum disease in heart health aren’t insignificant either; research has shown that severe gum disease can almost double the risk of heart disease. Good oral health is a key part of heart health.
Preventing Gum Disease
Now that we know how strong the link between gum disease and heart disease is, the good news is that prevention is very straightforward. People who practice good oral hygiene can typically look forward to strong healthy teeth and a strong, healthy heart. Preventing gum disease involves regular brushing and flossing, following your dentist’s directions for proper technique. In addition to everyday maintenance, regular checkups and cleanings are needed to remove plaque and tartar and ensure the early stages of gum disease (gingivitis) have not begun. It is also important to be aware of the signs of gingivitis, such as bleeding gums, when brushing and flossing, bad breath, and tender, swollen gums. Catching these symptoms early and seeing a dentist promptly can help reduce risks to the heart and prevent the disease from becoming more advanced.
Treating Existing Gum Disease
If you think you already have gum disease and you’re concerned for your oral and heart health, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. It is crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible, to protect your teeth and your heart.
If you need the advice of an expert in the Miami area, then come to the offices of Drs. Gallardo , periodontal specialists. Drs. Gallardo offer patients a number of different traditional and cutting-edge treatments for gum disease and will help you come up with a treatment plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.