How gum disease affects your heart health

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The idea that dental health could be a window to your overall health isn’t new, but the specific links between gum disease and heart disease have garnered significant attention from researchers over the past few decades.

Emerging evidence suggests that there might be a relationship between the health of your mouth and the health of your heart.

Here’s a straightforward look at what we know about the connection between gum disease and heart disease.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that can affect the bone that supports your teeth.

It’s caused by bacteria that accumulate in plaque—a sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth.

If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can lead to gum inflammation called gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis, where gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that become infected.

So, how does this relate to your heart? Research suggests several theories. One of the main ideas is that inflammation caused by gum disease may also lead to vascular inflammation, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Inflammatory substances released by gums infected with bacteria can enter the bloodstream and may cause an increase in the amount of plaque that accumulates in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis—a condition where the arteries become narrowed and restrict blood flow.

Atherosclerosis is a significant contributor to heart attacks and strokes.

Moreover, the type of bacteria found in gum disease has been detected in the plaque that clogs arteries in people with heart disease.

This finding suggests that these bacteria could directly contribute to the development of heart disease by traveling from the mouth to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, causing inflammation and damage to the blood vessels.

Several epidemiological studies have supported the link between gum and heart disease. For example, a study found that people with periodontal disease are at a higher risk for heart disease than those with healthy gums.

Furthermore, the worse the gum disease, the higher the risk seems to be. Another study showed that treating gum disease could improve blood vessel function and, hence, heart health.

However, it’s essential to note that while there’s a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

This means that while the two conditions often occur together, it’s not yet definitively proven that one causes the other. Researchers suggest that the connection could be due to a third factor, such as smoking, which is a risk factor for both diseases.

Given the potential link, it makes sense to take good care of your oral health not just for a bright smile but also for your heart. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, and regular dental check-ups can help prevent gum disease.

Additionally, lifestyle choices that benefit your overall health—such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly—also help maintain good dental health.

In summary, while more research is needed to fully understand the link between gum disease and heart disease, the evidence so far suggests that there could be a significant connection.

Taking steps to prevent or treat gum disease might not only save your teeth—it could also be vital in protecting your heart.

If you care about gum health, please read studies about an important causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and  common tooth disease that may increase risks of dementia.

For more information about gum health, please see recent studies about mouthwash that may increase your tooth damage, and results showing this diet could help treat gum disease.

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