Heart disease is a terrifying diagnosis that many people attempt to stay one step ahead of and circumvent. You can watch what you eat, keep tabs on your cholesterol and blood pressure, and have regular exams by your cardiologist. But did you know that visiting your dentist may help keep heart health in check too?
According to the American Heart Association, there is no conclusive evidence that preventing gum disease can prevent heart disease or that treating gum disease can lessen the build-up of plaque in the arteries. However – and this is the very important takeaway – the presence of periodontitis is a major red flag that should encourage a gum disease sufferer to make an appointment with their cardiologist immediately.
Studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are more likely to have heart disease than people with healthy gums. The mouth-body connection has long been proven, and your oral health is often indicative of health problems or conditions. For people who feel like there’s almost no way to know exactly what is really going on inside their bodies without a full-body scan, oral health does hold valuable clues.
Many of the risk factors for chronic gum disease and heart disease are the same: in particular, tobacco use, diabetes, and poor nutrition. And it has been suggested by some researchers that the bacteria from infected gums can enter the bloodstream and increase inflammation, thereby increasing the risk for heart attack.
Gum Disease: The Warning Signs
Around 80 percent of American adults are affected by some form of gum disease – which is a buildup of plaque along and below the gum line – from the early stages of gingivitis to full-blown periodontitis. Here are some of the warning signs:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums (especially when brushing or flossing)
- Loose teeth
- Gums that seem to be pulling away from your teeth
- Chronic bad breath
During your bi-annual visits to your dentist the plaque, tartar, and bacteria that build up on your teeth is removed with carefully designed tools. Daily brushing and flossing is crucial, but these practices don’t substitute for professional cleanings in the hygienist’s chair – they are all part of the same equation that result in a healthy mouth.
Your dentist is trained to recognize signs and symptoms of gum disease, and he will look for them during your regular preventive visits for a dental exam and cleaning. Contact Dr. Ken Cirka at Philadelphia Dentistry to schedule your next dental cleaning and exam.