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Heart Disease & Oral Health
Recently, dentists and researchers have begun to examine the link between oral health and overall health. One area they’ve focused on is the relationship between oral health and heart disease.
Specifically, gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is inflammation of the gums. It can lead to the breakdown of the gums, teeth, and jaw bone that holds them in place.
Heart disease refers to a broad set of conditions, including heart attack, endocarditis, angina and stroke. Heart diseases are caused by the narrowing or blockage of important blood vessels of the heart.
Keep reading to learn more about how oral health and heart health are related and what you can do to reduce your risk.
Is there a link between gum disease and heart disease?
Researchers and government agencies continue to investigate the possible relationship between gum disease and heart disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth that are involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes can, in turn, increase the risk for heart related conditions.
There is research to both, support and refute the possible link between gum disease and heart disease, and more studies are needed to see how the two may be linked.
Regardless of the relationship, maintaining optimal oral hygiene is an important part of your overall health.
Are you at a risk for heart disease?
Patients with chronic gum conditions such as gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease have the highest risk for heart disease caused by poor oral health, particularly if it remains undiagnosed and unmanaged for longer periods of time.
The bacteria that are associated with gum infection are in the mouth and can enter the blood stream, where they attach to the blood vessels and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. Even if you don’t have noticeable gum inflammation, inadequate oral hygiene and accumulated plaque and calculus puts you at risk for severe gum disease.
Let your dentist know your existing heart conditions
First, make sure you give your dentist a complete medical history and list of the names and dosages of all the medicines you are taking for your heart condition. This will help your dentist determine the best treatment for you, including medicine selection and other precautions for dental procedures.
Second, make sure to give your dentist the name and phone number of your cardiologist in case your dentist needs to speak to him or her about your dental care.
Third, if you are particularly nervous about undergoing a dental procedure because you believe your stress, worry and fears could make your heart condition worse, talk with your dentist. He or she can provide you with information and work with you on strategies to control dental pain and manage your anxiety.
Symptoms of gum disease
Regular visits to your dentist can help with early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. You should also let your dentist know if you have any symptoms of gum disease, like red or swollen gums, bleeding gums when brushing teeth, bad breath, receding gums or loose teeth.
These symptoms are clear indications of progressing gum disease. A dentist will make a formal diagnosis by reviewing the severity and duration of your symptoms and plan your treatment accordingly.
Symptoms of heart disease
If your doctor suspects heart disease, he or she will arrive at a diagnosis based on your medical history, the severity and duration of your symptoms, and the results of a physical examination and other investigations.
Some of the common signs of heart disease are chest pain, also known as angina, resulting from your heart not getting enough oxygen, irregular heartbeat, unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness or light headedness and a heart attack.
If you are a patient with known history of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or a previous heart surgery, it is advisable to keep your oral health, especially gum health in check to reduce the risk of worsening your heart health.
There are many healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt to maintain good oral hygiene and ultimately reduce the risk for heart diseases.
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste. Ask your dentist to demonstrate the correct brushing technique for you.
- Floss between your teeth and gums at least once a day.
- Use mouthwash as prescribed by the dentist.
- Refrain from smoking or chewing tobacco, smoking damages your gum health.
- Consume a diet high in vegetables, high in fiber, low in sugar and which has vegetable-based proteins.
- Maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar gives rise to severe gum problems.
- See a dentist twice a year for regular examination and professional teeth cleaning.
- Be mindful of early signs of gum disease, such as bleeding gums and constant bad breath. Let your dentist know if you have any of these symptoms.
What are the benefits of proper oral care?
Whether you are a known heart patient or not; maintenance of good oral hygiene has many benefits on overall health. You can reduce the chance of developing dental decay, gum inflammation and oral infections such as abscess formation by taking good care of your teeth and gums. Also, your chances of being prone to heart diseases are greatly reduced.