Gum disease is a serious dental condition that can lead to further oral health problems if left untreated. But recent research indicates that gum disease can also have far-reaching effects on your overall health, especially the health of your heart. In fact, people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, along with increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Here’s how:
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an inflammation of the gums caused when bacteria-filled plaque builds up around the teeth. The most common symptoms are red, swollen, or tender gums that can bleed easily or appear to pull away from the teeth. The best way to prevent gum disease is daily brushing and flossing, along with regular visits to your dentist. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and a breakdown of the gum tissue.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease refers to a broad set of medical conditions, including heart attack and stroke, and it is usually caused by the narrowing or blockage of vital blood vessels with another type of plaque. Arterial plaque is made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances, and it can build up around artery walls and restrict the flow of blood. If a chunk of plaque breaks off and clogs the artery entirely, a heart attack will result.
How does gum disease affect your heart?
While arterial plaque can be caused by many factors, most commonly smoking and an unhealthy diet, it can also form as part of the body’s natural response to infection. After finding oral bacteria present in arterial plaque, scientists suspect the oral bacteria present in patients with gum disease can travel through the body, stick to existing arterial plaque, and trigger an inflammatory response. The inflammation can cause blood vessels to swell and narrow blood flow, increasing the risk of clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Does gum disease always lead to heart disease?
Not everyone who has gum disease will develop heart problems, and many people with heart disease have healthy gums, so there is not a definitive cause-and-effect link between the two health issues. However, many recent studies have shown that gum disease increases the risk of developing heart disease. It’s important to practice daily oral hygiene, eat a nutritious diet, and get regular exercise in order to achieve and maintain optimal health.
Is gum disease linked to other medical conditions?
Although much more research is needed to fully understand how gum disease affects the rest of the body, some studies have discovered that bacteria in the mouth can move to the lungs and cause infections such as pneumonia. Additionally, there are possible links between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer such as kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers.
Gum disease treatment at San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry
If you are showing early signs of gum disease, it’s crucial to start treatment immediately before the periodontal bacteria spreads through the rest of your body. At San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry, we specialize in periodontal health and can help you get the treatment you need. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, give us a call at (619) 543-0905.