As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped candies, cards, and decorations, have you thought about the health of your own heart? And did you know that there is a connection between oral health and heart disease?
In April 2012, the American Heart Association published a statement supporting an association between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing. When gum disease becomes more advanced, it is called periodontitis. Periodontitis can to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and may become more severe over time resulting in tooth loss. It is estimated that 47.2% of adults over 30 in the United States have periodontitis.
Unfortunately, gum disease sometimes does not have any symptoms or warning signs, so people who have it may be unaware that the tissues and bone supporting their teeth are eroding away. This is one reason why regular dental cleanings and periodontal examinations are so important. The earlier we are able to identify gum disease, the earlier we can intervene and prevent the condition from progressing.
While the exact link between gum disease and heart disease remains undetermined, it is known that people with gum disease have a two to three times higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. Although we cannot prove that treating gum disease prevents heart disease, the connection is compelling enough that both dentists and doctors agree patients should strive to prevent developing gum disease. To avoid developing gum disease and maintain good oral health, the American Dental Association suggests:
- Brushing twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
- Cleaning between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.
- Visiting your dentist regularly for oral examinations and professional cleanings.
Dr. Kristy Chandler