Perhaps it’s not an easy thing to see or understand, but it’s true: Periodontal disease is entwined with and inextricably linked to heart disease and stroke. In fact, research has shown that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease as the average person. And research has shown that mouth infections are a risk factor for strokes.
Clearly, people with heart disease and stroke risks need to take care of their mouths. And we all need to pay attention to oral health to ensure that we stay healthy overall.
How Gum Disease Does So Much Harm
Periodontal disease – often simply called gum disease – gets worse over time if not treated. But what is it? By its simplest definition, gum disease is any sort of infection of the gums and the surrounding tissue. Here’s what happens: Bacteria in the slimy plaque on your teeth colonizes, first above the gum line and then below it. As the condition worsens, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that harbor food particles, plaque and more bacteria.
If the condition isn’t treated, these pockets can get very deep, making the problem worse and worse. Eventually, things get so bad that the jawbone and other structures underneath the gums start to be impacted. As bone is lost, your teeth can move, become loose and eventually fall out or require extraction.
How Periodontal And Heart Diseases Are Linked
When you have heart disease, you have a serious medical condition. Artery walls near the heart thicken as fatty proteins build up. The heart is no longer able to get the oxygen it needs and works harder and harder to pump blood throughout your body. You can suffer from blood clots and other complications that cause heart attacks and additonal health concerns.
There’s very little doubt among researchers about a connection between gum disease and heart disease. The exact cause of the link isn’t completely understood, but there are several theories. One is that oral bacteria directly impacts the heart. Some strains of oral bacteria can get into the bloodstream and attach themselves to the fatty plaque in the arteries around your heart. This can increase formation of clots, which cause heart attacks.
Another theory concerns inflammation. Gum disease involves a lot of inflammation of soft tissues, upping your body’s white blood cell levels and c-reactive protein levels. These are both proven contributors to heart disease.
A third theory about the link between periodontal disease and heart disease involves infection susceptibility. If you have a lot of oral bacteria, you may have a weak immune system. This fact itself may induce vascular issues that contribute heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
You’re Never Without Hope
Fortunately, we can treat your periodontal disease and reduce your risk of heart attacks and stroke along the way. It all starts with a simple exam to determine where you stand. This includes x-rays to find out if there’s any bone loss and how extensive it is. Then, a deep cleaning is the next step. This may involve scaling and root planing as necessary to remove bacteria and make it harder for it to reestablish itself. You may be given a prescription for a course of antibiotics as well as other treatments to help get your gums and mouth healthy again.
At Brighton Dental in San Diego, we want you to experience great oral and overall health. Contact us for an appointment. We’re here for you.
To learn more about this crucial topic, see our page about Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease.