Your gums and heart are about a foot apart and perform very different jobs, so how can a problem in your mouth affect your most vital organ?
Researchers have investigated this question for years and have discovered some alarming information that links the two body parts.
Here, Dr. Caesar Sweidan and Dr. Laura Smith at St. Tammany Periodontics & Implants explain the correlation and offer practical ways for our patients throughout Slidell and Covington, Louisiana, to prevent gum disease and support heart health.
Gums and heart — a clear connection
For decades, researchers have tried to identify the connection between gum disease and heart disease.
Initial findings showed that people who treat gum disease early and resolve it before it progresses spend up to 40% less on cardiovascular care, and later studies revealed that periodontitis (gum disease) increases your risk for cardiovascular disease by 20%-180%.
That stunning statistic should make you reach for your toothbrush and inspire you to up your dental hygiene game.
Now that you know there’s a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, let’s explore why.
How gum disease affects your heart
Gum disease occurs when bacteria invade your gum tissue and trigger an infection. Those bacteria can easily hitch a ride in your bloodstream and travel to your heart. This poses two specific risks.
Heart valve infection
When they enter your bloodstream, bacteria from your gums come into direct contact with your heart valves, putting you at risk for heart valve disease. But gum disease significantly increases the danger if you have an artificial heart valve.
Blood vessel inflammation
Bacteria in your bloodstream inflame your heart’s blood vessels — a known precursor to strokes and heart attacks. Gum disease can trigger blood vessel inflammation or worsen existing inflammation.
Some studies have even discovered oral bacteria in the blood vessels of people with atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup in arteries.
Other health issues linked with gum disease
Simply put, gum disease is an inflammation of the gums. If you don’t seek treatment, it progresses, and the bacteria begin to attack your gum tissue, teeth, and bones and then move on to other body parts.
Inflammation, especially if it hangs around long-term, wreaks havoc on your body, making gum disease a factor in health conditions other than heart disease. Research suggests that periodontitis may contribute to:
- Respiratory diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Some types of cancer, such as kidney, blood, and pancreatic
On the flip side, certain health conditions put you at high risk for developing gum disease. For example, diabetes increases your chances of getting periodontitis. And pregnancy, though not a medical condition, also makes you vulnerable to gum disease.
How to treat gum disease
For mild to moderate cases of gum disease, we can usually resolve it with a thorough professional cleaning to get rid of built-up plaque. We may need to use special tools and a technique called scaling and planing to ensure we remove all bacteria from under your gumline.
In advanced cases, we recommend periodontal surgery using our state-of-the-art laser therapy. Instead of a scalpel, we use advanced laser technology to remove diseased tissue precisely with less discomfort. This also means you’ll have a faster recovery.
Following a sound at-home dental hygiene routine and keeping your twice-yearly cleaning appointments with us help you prevent gum disease and the potential consequence of heart disease down the road.
To schedule a visit, call us at 985-778-0241 or request an appointment through our online portal to learn more about gum disease prevention.