Common threads have been found between good dental health and good heart health, and some of those threads look a lot like dental floss.
Keeping your teeth clean and your breath fresh may mean more for your overall health and wellness than you realize. What happens in your mouth can certainly impact what happens a little deeper inside, and may very well weigh on your heart, so to speak.
Can healthy teeth and gums prevent heart disease?
To say that good oral health can prevent heart disease is a strong claim, one not fully supported by current scientific research; however, there is strong evidence that would indicate a connection between people who fall under the “poor dental health” category and those who experience chronic, systemic health issues.
Reason enough to pay attention and take note.
The Startling Impact of Heart Disease
610,000 people die of heart disease each year, and as of 2016, it remains the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.
Its prominence is scary. So it’s no wonder doctors are doing what they can to find commonalities in heart disease patients.
They’re studying all aspects of human health to ensure no preventative measure goes unnoticed.
But digging into dental health? Blaming gum disease? It may sound like a stretch, but the connection between oral health and your overall, systemic health has been holding increasingly more weight as research results continue to surface.
Define “Gum Disease”
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is inflammation of the gums.
It’s usually caused by a buildup of plaque, (otherwise known as the sticky coating that can form on your teeth over time or without proper oral hygiene), which encourages the growth of bacteria. It’s this bacteria that can eventually lead to issues with the gums.
There are two types of gum disease: Gingivitis and Periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the most mild form of gum disease. It is usually recognizable by swelling and bleeding of the gums. At this stage, there is little other discomfort, and the condition can generally be treated by improving basic, daily oral hygiene.
Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease. At this stage, bacteria-ridden plaque may seep below the gum line and release toxins, which eventually results in swelling and discomfort in and around the gums.
If left untreated, Periodontitis can lead to the decay of the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth, and ultimately may cause the teeth to loosen or fall out entirely.
Though the symptoms can be mild, the consequences can be quite severe. It is Periodontitis, in particular, that has researchers doing their due diligence to weigh the impact of healthy gums.
So What is the Connection?
In a few words: common bacteria and inflammation.
The bacteria that is found to cause gum disease is the same bacteria found in blood vessels undergoing atherosclerosis, or hardening.
That both conditions share this bacteria is reason for research, which of course continues to be done.
In a similar way, both diseases have inflammation in common. The presence of gum disease causes a spike in C-reactive proteins (CRP)–these happen to be the same proteins that are used to assess a person’s risk for heart attack.
Heightened levels of CRP = high risk.
Are Your Gums Healthy?
Particularly if you don’t make regular dental visits (and even if you do), there are gum disease warning signs you should be aware of, all of which can be recognized in periodic self-assessments:
- Swollen, red, or tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Buildup of hard, brown deposits along the gum line
- Loose teeth or teeth that are moving apart
- Changes in the way dental appliances fit
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult your dentist immediately. You may be facing a gum disease diagnoses.
Don’t stress just yet. Daily tooth brushing, among other simple oral hygiene actions, can revers
e gingivitis and other gum conditions.
But it’s best not to make a habit out of ignoring your dental upkeep, so definitely get checked out if any of these issues arise.
The Chain Reaction of Good (or Bad) Dental Health
There is no concrete, scientific evidence that dental health can prevent heart disease. But what the evidence does suggest is that those who practice good oral health tend to experience fewer systemic health issues.
On one hand, people with good oral health may simply be taking better care of themselves: studies prove that people who experience gum disease tend to have bad overall health habits.
While a full on healthy lifestyle may seem unattainable, or difficult to maintain, taking a few simple steps to achieve good oral health might be just the inspiration you need to make other healthy changes.
Here are a few preventative measures to ward off periodontal disease and maintain healthy gums:
- Brush and floss-daily
Toothbrushing and flossing can reverse earliest forms of gum disease
- Maintain a healthy diet, low in sugar
Diets high in sugar encourage tooth decay and may result in the formation of cavities, among a range of other oral health issues
- Eliminate smoking and other tobacco products
Tobacco products come with a ton of negative side effects. And since they enter your body through the mouth, you can imagine the negative impact they’ll have there.
- Make regular dentist visits
Regularly visiting the dentist for cleanings and consultations will help with the general upkeep of your oral health like keeping teeth cavity-free and removing hard-to-reach plaque.
You can maintain healthy gums, and ideally a healthy heart, with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and of course by avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, and other behaviors that may threaten your general health and wellness.
The bottom line on gum health: treatment may help lessen adverse consequences such as systemic health issues, but like most chronic health concerns, prevention is truly the best medicine.
Keeping your mouth clean may mean more for you than just fresh breath and a flashy, beautiful smile. It may mean lasting heart health, and an elevated consciousness toward living a healthy lifestyle.
Worried about your gums or simply due for a check up? Call us!