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The Link between Dental Care and a Healthy Heart

Dr. Degel May 4, 2015

A woman with beautiful white teethIf you were asked to describe good habits for maintaining a healthy heart, dental care might not be the first item on your list. But, as seems to be the case with many aspects of health, these parts of the body are not necessarily independent from each other. Although studies have yet to definitely determine a causal reason for such a link, there are clear correlations between good oral health - specifically, periodontal health - and a stronger cardiovascular system. While there are already a variety of excellent reasons to maintain your oral health through regular general dentistry and hygiene, this is yet another benefit to visiting your dentist. Before scheduling your next appointment at our Queens office, see why having healthy gums is even more important than you might initially realize.

The Risk of Gum Disease

In many cases, gum health really just boils down to one issue: the presence of disease. When patients don’t brush and floss regularly, they are at an increased risk of gum disease. This risk is further heightened when professional cleanings are neglected, as plaque builds along the gum line, possibly forming pockets of infection beneath. In its earlier stages, disease is seen as gingivitis: an infection of the soft gum tissue. This leads to a receding gum line, sensitive gums, an increased risk of cavities in the area, and the possibility of infected roots. As disease progresses down toward the roots, it may also infect nearby bone tissue, thus becoming a more severe infection known as periodontitis.

When left untreated, gum disease can ultimately lead to serious infection, loosening teeth, rotting roots, and causing loss of bone density in the jaw. Of course, these are only the more direct, observable effects. When considering the possible systemic effects of disease in the body, the possible complications are numerous. 

Gum Disease and Heart Disease

When examining correlations between heart disease and gum disease, multiple studies suggest that the former is at least partially influenced by the latter. For instance, one study found that significant tooth loss (from gum disease) correlated with a 57 percent increase in the risk of stroke. Several studies have similarly established that gum disease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Clogged arteries in the legs seem to show a particularly strong correlation with chronic gum disease. Finally, those with moderate to severe gum disease show an increased presence of C-reactive protein, which is a response to inflammation. This protein is also typically used in the assessment of one’s risk of a heart attack, suggesting that any chronic inflammation could heighten one’s chances of heart problems.

As for the mechanism behind this relationship, scientists can only speculate at the moment. A compelling find is that the bacteria associated with gum disease are also found in plaque within blood vessels, suggesting that bacteria are able to travel from the mouth into the blood stream. Some scientists have also speculated that inhaling such bacteria into the lungs may provide a way for them to enter other systems of the body. Regardless, whatever the reason is behind this link, patients who take care of their gums are undoubtedly at an advantage.  

Preventative Periodontal Treatment

If gum health translates to heart health, then maintaining healthy gums may be one of the easiest ways to improve your heart. First and foremost, maintaining a daily hygiene regimen is an extremely effective way of warding off disease. Brushing and flossing regularly, especially when combined with healthy eating habits, are usually enough to keep disease under control. Still, professional dental cleanings are needed. By removing stubborn bits of plaque and tartar, your dentist will keep both your teeth and gums clean, preventing encroaching disease. In the event your gums are suffering from advanced gingivitis, as evidenced by loose gums and pockets of infection, a deep cleaning may be recommended to prevent its continuance. 

Schedule Your Next Cleaning

Good oral health is simply good health. Don’t let disease get the better of your smile or lead to other complications. Contact our office to schedule your next professional exam and cleaning

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