Diligent oral hygiene and seeing the dentist twice a year are important steps towards a healthy smile. But did you know that they are also influential components of your heart health? The link between oral health and heart health is a strong one. Gum disease in particular can wreak havoc inside your mouth and throughout your entire body if it is not treated. In fact, research has linked gum disease to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature births.
Gum disease is essentially an inflammation and infection within the soft tissues of your mouth. Unfortunately, this infection can enter into your bloodstream and travel throughout the body if left alone. Here is a closer look at how gum disease affects the heart.
- Endocarditis is a bacterial infection that can infect the valves of the heart, eventually damaging the heart’s ability to pump blood. Unfortunately, the infection that can permanently damage the heart valves can originate in the mouth via gum disease.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Oral infections can also spread to the arterial walls, which causes cardiovascular disease. Here the infection may inflame the walls of the heart and restrict blood supply, putting patients at risk for a heart attack.
- Heart attack
- The most serious heart-related consequence of gum disease is a heart attack. This typically occurs in patients who have severe, untreated gum disease. During a heart attack, the coronary arteries become too narrowed or blocked to allow sufficient blood flow to pass through to the heart muscle.
Gum disease occurs in stages, as do the heart health issues that it can cause. At Mitzi Morris, DMD, we encourage patients to recognize the signs of gum disease early so that they can get the most effective treatment before it is too late. While there are a number of factors that affect your heart health, such as diet, exercise and family history, brushing your teeth should be an easy action to take. Simply removing plaque and bacteria off of your teeth and gums each day can prevent gum disease from forming. If you do notice swollen or bleeding gums, now is the time to take a proactive approach and step up your oral hygiene efforts or schedule a deep cleaning at our office. By protecting your smile, we can protect your heart!