Gum Disease Associated with Heart Disease

While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that patients with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease and that this is independent of other factors such as smoking or diabetes. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by gum disease may be responsible for the association. If you have heart disease, let your dentist know; your dentist will work with you to design a treatment plan that can positively impact not only your oral health but your overall health. Research shows that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without.1

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.2

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.

The information provided is for educational purposes only.

1. American Academy of PeriodontologyOpens a new window, last modified: February 23, 2011

2. 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