May 5, 2019
When most people hear the phrase “gum disease,” they probably think of a minor infection at most. They aren’t likely to think of a serious issue that needs immediate treatment. With a name like gum disease, it can be hard to believe that it affects more than just your mouth. However, research has shown that the condition can damage your brain, lungs, and heart as well. Read on as a dentist explains how gum disease can hurt your heart in particular.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease or periodontitis, is a bacterial infection in the gums. These bacteria create pockets in between the gums and teeth that allow them ample room to multiply and cause increasingly more damage. Inflammation, an immune system response triggered by the bacteria, can hurt gum tissue.
In the mouth, the effects of gum disease range from mildly swollen and red gums to complete erosion of the tooth’s bony support structure, leading to tooth loss. However, it can have detrimental effects on other parts of the body as well.
Some symptoms of gum disease include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Loose or separated teeth
- Constant bad breath
How Does Gum Disease Affect the Heart?
Research has found that people with periodontal disease are more susceptible to other conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and pregnancy complications. However, the exact reason between this link is unknown. Scientists are uncertain if gum disease directly causes these problems, or if people with chronic health issues have a harder time taking care of their gums.
One theory for the association is that inflammation in the gums can set off a chain reaction throughout the body and eventually into the heart. Inflammation of the heart, or myocarditis, can weaken the heart and eventually form clots, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Another hypothesis claims that the holes created in the gums allow bacteria easier access to the bloodstream. This can lead to infections in not only the heart, but the whole body.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
Gum disease sounds scary, but if you maintain proper oral hygiene habits, your mouth and your heart will thank you. Some ways to stave off gum disease include:
- Visiting your dentist at least every six months for routine checkups and cleanings
- Brushing your teeth twice a day for two full minutes
- Flossing daily, ideally before bed
- Abstaining from smoking
- Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish
Having a healthy mouth is a key factor in having a healthy heart. Following these tips is the best way to ensure that you have both. If you think you might have gum disease, contact your dentist right away to stop any infections in their tracks.
About the Practice
Our team of 5 dentists at Painesville Dental Group is devoted to helping people smile. They continue to grow their skill sets through post-graduate training to ensure that you receive the best care that modern dentistry has to offer. Between them they have a wide variety of areas of dental expertise, so that you can get the help you need no matter what your concerns are. To learn more about preventing and treating gum disease, click here or call (440)-354-2183.
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