Did you know that the health of your mouth may be an indicator of your heart health? Recent studies have shown possible links between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease. Researchers have found that people with gum disease are roughly twice as likely to have coronary artery disease. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death, with coronary artery disease being the most common type of heart disease.
Gum disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support teeth, is an infection caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that forms on the teeth, mainly along the gum line. In its early stages, called gingivitis, gum disease can be treated and often reversed.
It is unknown whether gum disease aids in the cause heart disease but there are several theories that exist to explain the possible connection between the two. One theory is that bacteria from diseased gums enter the bloodstream and once in the blood, the bacteria may attach to fatty plaques in the heart’s blood vessels. In turn, this may contribute to clot formation potentially leading to a heart attack. Another theory points to the inflammation associated with gum disease as a possible culprit. One common risk factor for both gum and heart disease is smoking. Smoking is a major cause for heart disease, and it is estimated that over half of gum disease in the United States is related to smoking.
Research continues in an effort to pinpoint the exact connection between gum disease and heart disease. In the meantime, taking care of your teeth and gums may be even more important for maintaining your overall health.
To help keep your mouth and heart healthy, follow these tips to help prevent problems before they arise:
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Make sure you brush gently beneath the gum line around each tooth.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Eat a healthy diet and don’t use tobacco. If you smoke – quit. Your dentist may be able to help you stop.