Gum Disease Can Raise Your Risk for Heart Disease
The causes of heart disease are well known, including smoking, obesity and high blood pressure. But did you know that gum disease has also been linked to heart disease? Research shows that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without.1
The bacteria produced by a gum infection can enter the bloodstream and attach to blood vessels, causing blood clots.2 Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, preventing your heart from getting the nutrients and oxygen it needs. Over time, this could lead to cardiovascular disease and possibly a heart attack. Some experts even suggest that there is a direct relationship between swelling in the gums due to gum disease and swelling in the arteries of the heart.
Treating gum disease may help restore the elasticity of the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Studies have also suggested a link between gum disease and atherosclerosis (a disease affecting arterial blood vessels), and proposed that treating gum disease may reduce the risk of heart disease.3
Treating Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection of the gums, bones and tissues that attach your teeth to your jaw bone. The disease is caused by plaque, which sticks to your teeth. If the plaque isn't removed daily by good brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, which collects more plaque. The bacteria in the plaque can then infect the gums.
Common signs of gum disease include red and swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss, gums that have pulled away from the teeth, bad breath, permanent teeth that become loose, and changes in the way your teeth fit together.
In the early stages, your dentist can remove the collected plaque and tartar and smooth the root surfaces. If the disease is more advanced, additional treatments may be necessary. Patients with heart disease may need treatments specifically tailored to their condition.
The American Heart Association recommends that you:
- Maintain a healthy mouth by practicing good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing
- Visit your dentist regularly and discuss your heart condition with them
- Carefully follow your doctor's and dentist's instructions when they prescribe special medications such as antibiotics
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy will not only give you a healthy mouth it may give you a healthier heart as well.
- American Academy of Periodontology, last modified: February 23, 2011
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, What Is Endocarditis? October 1, 2010
- American Academy of Periodontology, Tonetti MS, D'Aiuto F, Nibali L, Donald A, Storry C, Parkar M, Suvan J, Hingorani AD, Vallance P, Deanfield J, Treatment of Periodontitis and Endothelial Function, N Engl J Med 356:911, last modified: July 2, 2010