Many people are unaware of the role that dental health plays in understanding your overall health. Visiting your dentist is not something to shove at the bottom of your to-do list as the status of your oral health can affect your entire body. Your oral health can give doctors insight to potential risks and save you from future problems like heart disease. It is important to be aware of the basic connection between heart disease and dental health to maintain your overall health. Recent studies have shown that those with gum disease are at a greater risk of developing heart disease than those with healthy gums. Doctors can acquire an array of knowledge from your mouth including warning signs of several conditions and diseases, specifically heart disease. Early detection of issues like gum disease can provide doctors and dentists the time they need to correct these issues before they become more dangerous. Continue reading to learn why oral health can increase your risk of heart disease, warning signs of gum disease, and prevention methods.
How are heart disease and dental health connected?
Bad bacteria in the mouth is the main connection between heart disease and dental health. The human body has many areas where harmless bacteria lives, the mouth included. It is important to note, the body’s natural healing properties and routine oral hygiene can keep potentially dangerous bacteria in your mouth at bay. However, when the bacteria in your mouth reaches dangerous levels it can pose the threat of infections, like gingivitis and gum disease. So how is gum disease related to heart disease? Studies have shown that the bacteria infecting the mouth that causes gingivitis and gum disease can enter and spread through the bloodstream. When these bacteria make their way to the heart, they attach to damaged areas and create inflammation in the blood vessels which lead to an increased risk of diseases including heart disease and endocarditis (an infection in the valves and inner lining of the heart). Inflammation from oral bacteria has also been linked to other heart conditions including clogged arteries and stroke.
Warning signs of gum disease
Those with gingivitis and gum disease have the highest risk of developing heart disease caused by dental health issues. It is important to visit your dentist every six months because allowing oral conditions to go undiagnosed or unmanaged can lead to unexpected heart conditions in the future. If you have any unusual changes in your oral health or suspect you have gum disease, contact your dentist immediately to set up an appointment. Below are symptoms and warning signs of gum disease:
- Frequent bad taste in the mouth or bad breath
- Bleeding gums when brushing teeth, eating, or flossing
- Swollen, red, and sore gums
- Pus around the teeth and gums
- Separating or loose teeth
- Gums pulling away from the teeth
There are very simple preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from gum disease and other oral conditions. A critical step in preventing gum disease is visiting your dentist regularly. Your dentist will be able to catch problems early on and provide the best course of action if you are seeing them on a semi-annual basis. In order for your dentist to examine and treat your specific needs, you need to inform them of your complete medical history including medication usage. Certain medications can reduce the production of natural saliva, which balances the acid in your mouth caused by bacteria.
Practicing good oral hygiene at home is another easy way to protect yourself from gum disease. It is important to keep up with your dental health as plaque and poor oral hygiene can put you at risk for oral conditions and diseases. Below are a few tips to help you maintain your oral hygiene:
- Floss daily
- Use fluoride toothpaste
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Use a soft bristle tooth brush that comfortably fits your mouth
- Avoid the use of tobacco
- Eat a balanced diet
Taking preventative measures can reduce the likelihood of a connection between heart disease and dental health from occurring. As always, consult your dentist and doctor with any concerns you have regarding your health and contact them immediately if any health problems emerge.
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Dr. Cory Fortson, DDS began his educational journey by earning a BS in Nutritional Science from Michigan State University. He is a 2014 graduate of The University of Detroit Dental School and a third generation dentist who is proud to provide excellent dental care to the Lathrup Village community from his practice, Fortson Dentistry.