The Surprising Link Between Periodontal Disease and Heart Health
Can your mouth tell if you're at risk for heart disease? It just may! Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease. A recent analysis shows that the potential heart disease risk for patients with periodontal disease may even be greater than for those with high cholesterol. For too many Americans, this reality hits close to home in that more than 85 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, while more than 200 million American adults have some form of periodontal disease.
Scientists suspect the link between the two diseases is due to the same bacteria. In this scenario, bacteria found in infected gum tissue around teeth break down the barrier between the gums and the underlying connective tissue, causing inflammation. During normal chewing or brushing, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move to other parts of the circulatory system, contributing to the formation of cardiovascular disease.
Inflammation, or swelling, is the body's natural response to infection. It is possible that as oral bacteria travel through the body it triggers a similar response, which then leads to the formation of arterial plaque. Oral bacteria have been found in the fatty deposits of people with atherosclerosis. These deposits can narrow arteries or break loose and clog them entirely, leading to heart attack or stroke.
While scientists are still researching whether inflammation is at the root of the problem, one thing is for sure: It is firmly established that a link exists between periodontal disease and heart disease.
Given the link between these two systemic diseases, the dental profession can be considered a key assessor of not just oral health, but also heart health. The first step is getting scheduled with your dental team for a dental hygiene checkup. The hygiene team should be actively looking for the disease by doing a thorough periodontal exam and charting. In this exam they will be looking for:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums or other pain in the mouth
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Sores in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way the teeth fit together when one bites down
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
Some of these initial symptoms of periodontal disease are often silent or you don't notice any symptoms until later stages. This is where your dental team will help identify symptoms at an early stage so you can get the proper treatment to maintain a healthy smile and heart.
If periodontal disease is detected, then a treatment plan will be recommended to repair the damage caused by the disease by getting rid of the infection and close up the pockets. Today, many general dentists and periodontists offer a patient-friendly protocol to help treat your disease. You should also be educated by your dental team to help you identify early symptoms and how to maintain the treatment that was performed to keep you in good oral health.
For more information on periodontal disease and how our office can help, please visit our website at www.Dentalblu.com or give our office a call to set up your dental hygiene checkup.