Can Oral Health Affect Your Heart?
When most people think about dental problems, they picture cavities and painful restorative treatments, such as root canals, extractions, and more. In reality, it’s a gum disease that poses the biggest threat to most Americans; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 50 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some form of periodontal or gum disease.
A serious problem, this affliction can result in all sorts of dental issues, including dangerous infections and potential bone and tooth loss. What’s more, recent studies have linked gum disease to a myriad of medical conditions, including heart disease.
What Is it?
Over time, bacteria in our mouths combine with mucus and other matter to create a clear, adhesive “plaque” which gathers over our teeth. Good dental hygiene can help remove much of this plaque; however, in many cases, this film can harden to form tartar. The longer it stays on teeth, the more harmful tartar becomes. Eventually, it may promote gum inflammation known as gingivitis. A mild form of gum disease, gingivitis results in swollen, red gums that bleed rather easily. Daily flossing and brushing combined with professional dental cleanings can reverse gingivitis. On the other hand, if it’s left untreated, gingivitis can progress into full-blown periodontal disease.
Once periodontitis occurs, gums begin to recede from the teeth, resulting in spaces or pockets that become infected. As the body’s immune system ramps up to fight bacteria, connective tissue and bone begin to break down. Over time, this may result in tooth loss, along with other, more serious health issues.
Recent studies have linked poor dental health to a growing number of medical problems. Among other things, researchers have linked gum disease to erectile dysfunction and pregnancy issues. Numerous studies have also drawn a clear association between gum disease and deadly heart disease. While they aren’t exactly sure why the relationship exists, researchers speculate that inflammation may play some type of role. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that gum disease can serve as a clear warning that other health problems may exist within a person’s body.
What Are the Causes?
By far, most cases of gum disease occur due to poor dental hygiene. That said, it can also result due to the following:
· Smoking – A dangerous habit that can result in numerous health problems, smoking is a significant risk factor associated with periodontal disease.
- Hormonal issues – When women or girls experience specific hormonal changes, their gums may become more vulnerable to gum disease.
- Diabetes – Diabetics are at a greater risk for developing several kinds of infections, including periodontal disease.
- Medications – Any drug that reduces a person’s saliva may promote gum disease.
Gum disease may demand different treatment strategies, depending on its severity. In many cases, the dentist will use scaling and root planing techniques to remove tartar and bacteria; however, these days, more and more are using laser technology to help with this. Advanced gum disease may also require antibiotics; however, when full-blown gum disease threatens bone and soft tissue, serious surgical procedures may become necessary.
By far, the best time to receive treatment for gum disease is at its earliest stages. Unfortunately, countless people remain unaware that they have gum issues because early symptoms can often go unnoticed. To prevent potential problems, it’s important to maintain regular dental check-ups with a professional general dentist, who will be able to spot minor issues before they develop into major problems that require expensive, painful treatments.