Can Dental Care Boost Heart Health?
By John Rink DDS on May 22, 2015
Regular dental care has a multitude of benefits - healthy teeth and gums, clean breath, and a beautiful smile, just to name a few. But did you know that increasing evidence shows that periodontal (gum) health is also strongly correlated with the cardiovascular system? Believe it or not, those regular dental visits may transcend mere oral health in the long-run. When you visit our Charleston office, remember that general dentistry can be a significant portion of your overall healthcare. To learn more about this link between gum and heart health, take note of the information provided below.
Gum Disease and Heart Health
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, has been shown to have a significant correlation with cardiovascular health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, those with a history of gum disease are at a higher risk of heart disease, along with related risks such as heart attacks, strokes, and elevated blood pressure in general. Likewise, patients with existing heart conditions may have such problems exacerbated by the presence of gum disease.
In a comprehensive review of over 120 medical studies, the Journal of Periodontology and American Journal of Cardiology concluded that there was a definite link between periodontal and cardiovascular disease. The findings of the paper concluded that:
- Gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease
- Gum disease is a risk factor for diseases that lead to stroke
- Gum disease is linked to cases of clogged arteries in the legs
- The bacteria present in gum disease is similar to those found in atherosclerosis
- Inflammation of the gums increases the natural presence of C-reaction proteins (CRP), which are also found in response to whole-body inflammation from cardiovascular problems
How Does Gum Disease Influence Heart Problems?
While the mechanism of this relationship is not yet known, many doctors have posited that the bacteria caused by (and resulting from) gum disease travels from the mouth into other areas of the body through the lungs or blood vessels. The dental plaque responsible for gum disease and cavities is not unlike the plaque that clogs arteries, and it is in this way that gum disease is believed to increase the risk of such issues.
Similarly, as noted above, the inflammation of soft tissues caused by gum disease increases the level of CRP in patients. While CRP is a natural response to inflammation and is intended to help the body heal, the increased and persistent presence of CRP is believed to elevate the risk of heart disease. This is especially true for patients who have an inherently high base level of CRP.
Take Note of Gum Disease
The silver lining to this medical link is that by understanding the possible effects of gum disease, patients can take greater preventative action before complications develop. By noticing symptoms of gum disease, you can better ensure your oral and general health. Common effects of gum disease include:
- Reddened or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing
- Increased gum sensitivity
- Pockets of infection beneath the gum line
- A receding gum line
- Gums that have begun to pull away from teeth
- Chronic bad breath
- Loosening or shifting teeth
Generally, the best way to fight gum disease is through regular hygiene and professional dental cleanings. In the event your gums cannot be restored to health on their own, additional treatment may be recommended, such as a deep cleaning. See your dentist for a more personal evaluation of your gum health and a possible treatment plan.
Schedule an Appointment
Healthy gums are an integral part of your dental and oral care, and we look forward to helping you maintain a strong, attractive smile. To schedule your next exam and cleaning, contact us to set up an appointment with Dr. Rink.