Gum Disease: Is Your Heart at Risk?
Posted on: Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
It’s easy to connect obesity and unhealthy eating habits with heart health risks, but what about gum disease? As it turns out, there is a close link between a person’s oral health and heart health. More and more research is uncovering the connections between poor oral health and heart disease. This means that if you skimp on your oral hygiene habits or haven’t seen your dentist recently, your heart could be at risk.
The Critical Link Between the Mouth and Heart
Inflammation, also known as swelling, is the link between poor oral health and heart problems. The gums inside of the mouth are vascular, which means they are full of blood vessels, while the mouth itself is filled with bacteria. When unhealthy gums become inflamed, the bacteria in the mouth can seep into the bloodstream and travel anywhere within the body, creating more inflammation as they go. This is incredible dangerous, especially to the heart.
The heart is already at risk of inflammation of its own, before the bacteria from the mouth become a threat. Inflammation causes hardened arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which makes it difficult for blood to flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis dramatically increases a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. When the inflammation of atherosclerosis combines with the inflammation and roaming bacteria caused by poor oral hygiene and gum disease, the results could prove fatal.
In fact, there are certain types of bacteria that doctors identify specifically with periodontal disease, including Streptococcus sanguis. It is far more common for people with gum disease to have Streptococcus sanguis bacteria in their hearts, which emphasizes the connection between the heart and the mouth. Other research makes a connection between the bacteria from gum disease and stroke, asserting that the bacteria can cause thick carotid arteries that prevent blood from flowing to the brain, eventually causing a stroke.
Research In Progress
Like many important discoveries, the link between oral health and heart health is still being developed. Many experts in the realms of periodontology and cardiology have completed research, including a consensus report published simultaneously in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. The report pointed out that gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, diseases of the blood vessels and arteries that supply the brain, clogged arteries in the legs, and stroke.
This type of research will continue for many more years, but enough has been completed to help us understand that poor oral health has a high likelihood of negatively impacting heart health.
Treating Gum Disease and Protecting the Heart
Gum disease is a scary thing, especially considering its potential impacts on the heart, but the good news is that processes of root planing and scaling can treat gum disease before it becomes too severe. It’s also possible to use a comprehensive treatment system at home to deliver safe and natural medication to the gums without relying upon surgery or antibiotics.
Root scaling and planing are two procedures that remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums. During root scaling, a dentist will numb the gums and tooth roots using a local anesthesia, then utilize special ultrasonic tools to remove the hard deposits of plaque and tartar from the teeth above and below the gum line. Root planing, meanwhile, smoothes the rough spots on the roots of the teeth that often lead to gum disease. When used in conjunction with brushing, flossing, and mouth washing twice per day, root scaling and planing can restore gums to their full health once again. The more frequent cleaning will be needed to maintain the health of the gums. Three month gum maintenance cleanings are an integral part of keeping the bacteria load under control.
Another way to support the progress made during root scaling and planing is to use Perio Protect®, a comprehensive treatment approach that uses a mouthguard and special sealing system to deliver medication below the gums. It only takes a few minutes a day to keep the gums healthy without damaging antibiotics or risky surgery. Perio Protect® has been proven to protect the gums from damaging bacteria in between regular dental visits, so it’s the perfect supplement to any oral health routine.
With the right precautionary and hygiene measures, anybody can protect not just their teeth and gums but also their heart!