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How are Oral Health and Heart Health Connected?

August 12, 2022

Overview

Inflammation of the Gums which can be a cause of the deterioration of the gums, teeth & bone tissues that hold gums in place is known as Gum Disease or Periodontal disease.

We all have often heard that oral health is important for all-around health. However, many people live with undiagnosed periodontal or gum disease as the patients do not go to the doctor as their teeth feel fine.

According to recent studies, There is now an indication of two particular links between oral health and heart disease. These include-

  • Gum disease in a moderate or advanced stage puts one at greater risk of heart disease than someone with healthy gums. 
  • An insight into Oral health can provide doctors with warning signs for a range of diseases and disorders, including heart disease.

A wide set of situations, like a heart attack & stroke, are a result of Heart disease, which is caused by the shrinking or blockage of vital blood vessels.

In this article, we will discuss the relation between these two conditions and what can be done to reduce the risk.

How are Gum Disease and Heart Disease Related?

Patients who suffer from persistent gum conditions such as gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease are at the highest risk for heart disease caused by poor oral health, especially when undiagnosed and untreated.

The bacteria associated with gum infection reside in the mouth and can enter the bloodstream. They can attach to the blood vessels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

The bacteria that migrate into the bloodstream can elevate C-reactive protein, which is considered a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels, further increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

These bacteria can attach themselves to any sensitive or damaged area, leading to inflammation. This may further lead to illnesses such as endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. 

Studies suggest that people who receive satisfactory care for gum disease had 10 to 40 % lesser cardiovascular care costs as compared to the people who didn’t get adequate oral care. A person’s risk of heart disease in people with gum disease is increased by up to 20 percent. 

All this evidence and studies have led the American Dental Association and American Heart Association to recognize the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. 

Also Read: What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage if one is regular with visits to the dentist.

Even in the cases where the gum inflammation may be unnoticeable, insufficient oral hygiene and amassed plaque can put one at risk of gum disease.

The following signs and symptoms may indicate gum disease and must be discussed with the dentist:

  • The gums are red, swollen and sore to the touch.
  • The gums that bleed on eating, brushing, or flossing.
  • Highly sensitive teeth.
  • Pus or any other indications of infection around the gums & teeth.
  • The gums look as if they are pulling away from the teeth.
  • A frequent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
  • Teeth that are loose, or seem to be moving away from the other teeth.

Gum disease and oral health are also believed to be related to a few other conditions too, like:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Respiratory disease
  • Certain types of Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 

Some conditions like diabetes may also increase your risk of developing gum disease due to higher inflammation & an increased risk of infections in general.

Pregnancy is also known to increase the risk of gum disease due to hormonal changes & increased blood flow.

However, it is important to keep in mind that having the above symptoms or risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean that you have gum disease.

Dr. Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry, explains that a formal diagnosis has to be made by analyzing the severity and length of the symptoms. The dentist evaluates the teeth and reviews the medical history by:

  • Measuring the gums with a tiny ruler to check the depth of the pocket
  • Assessing the gums for signs of inflammation and plaque buildup
  • Taking X-rays of underlying jawbone to find out the bone loss, if any
  • Examining sensitive teeth for receding gums

What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?

Diagnosis of heart disease is based on the person’s medical history, the severity of the symptoms and a thorough physical examination. The following are considered to be common symptoms of heart disease:

  • Chest pain is known as angina, resulting from the heart not getting sufficient oxygen
  • Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexpected or unexplained fatigue
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Sudden confusion or impaired thinking
  • The buildup of fluid in excess known as oedema
  • Heart Attack

The doctor also evaluates the blood and assesses the risk factors for heart disease which include family history and body weight. The diagnosis can be confirmed with the following tests:

  • Recording the heart’s electrical activity with the help of an EKG
  • Chest X-ray to check the heart & other organs in the chest
  • Blood tests to evaluate levels of proteins, lipids & glucose
  • Stress test to record abnormal changes in the heartbeat & breathing pattern during exercise

Prevention

The development of gum disease can be quite effectively prevented with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups.

Being aware and proactive about oral health can protect one from developing a connection between oral health and heart disease and keep your smile healthy, and clean.

  • Brush teeth and tongue at least twice a day
  • Floss between the teeth and gums daily
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Consume a diet high in fiber, vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and vegetable-based proteins.
  • Regulate your blood sugar levels and keep them under control especially if you have diabetes.
  • Visit a dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and checkups.

If you put off your dentist visits due to your busy work schedule during weekdays, remember Kirkland Premier Dentistry is a dental office with highly trained staff and is open on Saturdays.

Doctor’s Word

Dr. Sheena Gaur says that the connection between gum disease and heart disease has been established by quite a few researchers due to the buildup of bacteria that can lead to inflammation in the oral cavity, ultimately leading to narrowing and blockage of blood vessels. 

However, there is no need to panic. Awareness about your oral health and regular visits to the dentist can help you avoid the risk.

We are here to help you, not only with the health of your teeth but also to ensure that your heart keeps up its healthy beat.

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