Periodontal disease – also known as gum disease – is one of the main causes of tooth loss in adults.
It’s also a major contributing factor in heart disease.
How can this be?
Recent studies have shown there’s a strong link between gum disease and heart disease.
What is the link? What can you do to protect your health? And how can we help you keep your gums – and therefore, your heart – healthy for years to come?
The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease
When you first wake up in the morning, or after you eat something really sugary, do you notice how your teeth feel kind of fuzzy?
This feeling is caused by plaque which builds up on your teeth.
The only thing is, the plaque doesn’t just build up on the surfaces of the teeth which you can see.
Over time, plaque can build up in between teeth and on the root surface of the tooth below the gumline.
This excessive buildup happens when the plaque isn’t removed right away or it’s not removed properly.
The plaque is filled with bacteria and it is irritating to our gums. Eventually, it causes inflammation, which leads to red, tender, bleeding gums.
As time progresses, the gums and bone recede, and this leads to loose teeth.
These are the various stages of gum disease. It starts as puffy, red gums (gingivitis) and progressively gets to the point where people start losing their teeth.
How does this relate to heart disease?
People who have periodontal disease have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Researchers don’t know what the exact link is between the two diseases.
One theory is the more inflammation you have in the body, the higher your risk is of developing heart disease.
And gum disease is an inflammatory condition.
Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor in many diseases, including heart disease, endometriosis, and arthritis.
The bacteria in the oral plaque are a cause for concern, too. Some theorize the excess bacteria can lead to bacterial infections throughout the body, including the heart.
People with heart disease have plaque buildup within their arteries, which compromises the health of the arteries.
Bacteria are opportunistic – it attacks the weakest areas of the body. If the blood vessels or heart muscle is compromised, it’s easier for bacteria to settle there and cause problems.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Both Heart and Gum Disease
Gum disease has also been linked to other diseases in recent studies, including diabetes, breast cancer, and stroke.
To protect your teeth, as well as your overall health, take these steps.
1. Practice Good Dental Homecare Every Single Day
Brushing and flossing is a must.
You need to brush at least twice a day for approximately two to three minutes each time. An electric toothbrush is preferred, as it can remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush.
Flossing should be done at least once each day. The floss removes plaque where the toothbrush can’t: In between the teeth and below the gumline.
2. See Your Dentist and Dental Hygienist on a Regular Basis
Regular dental cleanings can protect against gum disease, too.
How often do you need to get your teeth cleaned? This depends on your needs, including past history of periodontal disease and how quickly you accumulate plaque. Some people do well with a cleaning every six months, while others need them every three months.
3. Eat a Diet Which Promotes Optimal Heart and Dental Health
A heart healthy diet is one which is low in sugar and saturated fat.
Reducing sugar can help prevent cavities, too.
Plus, when you eat plenty of fresh, whole foods, the vitamins and minerals will keep your heart, teeth, and gums healthy and strong.
We’re a Complete Unit – Healthy Habits Will Affect Every Part of Your Body
With all of the specialties in healthcare, it’s easy to think of our body as a series of independent systems. The nervous system, the circulatory system, the liver, the brain, bones, teeth – they’re all unique and treated by various specialists.
Despite this, it’s important to remember, ultimately, we’re one complete unit. Each system is dependent upon and supports the others.
Therefore, an issue in one area of your body could indicate an issue in another.
The good news is this: Any efforts you make to protect your health will translate to every part of your body. Flossing regularly will help your gums and your heart. Eating a heart-healthy diet will result in a healthier cardiovascular system, teeth and gums, and improved health overall.
Whenever you take a step in the direction of better health, remember you’re not just helping one part of your body – you’re helping your whole body.