It’s fitting that February is all about love and hearts since it’s American Heart Month! Now is a great time to take a moment between buying flowers and making dinner plans to reflect on your heart. Did you know that there’s a connection between the health of this vital organ and the health of your gums? Perhaps that’s why February is also National Gum Disease Awareness Month! Read on to learn more about this relationship and find out how taking care of your smile is good for your heart.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is estimated to effect more than 80% of American adults. It starts off as a bacterial infection in your gum tissue caused by plaque and tartar, which is known as gingivitis. While symptoms like swollen, sensitive gums can make this early stage of gum disease easy to overlook, the same cannot be said about it’s more advanced stages. Once it evolves into periodontitis, the infection is strong enough to cause permanent damage. It will begin to attack your jawbone and destroy the connective tissues that hold your teeth in place, eventually causing them to fall out.
Connecting Gum Disease and Heart Health
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States, but experts believe that its effects don’t stop at your smile. Recent studies show that gum disease can raise a person’s risk of heart disease by 20%, which is largely attributed to two main factors:
- Harmful bacteria: Since the bacterial infection at the root of gum disease is destructive enough to cause tooth loss, it can certainly be dangerous to the rest of the body. Researchers believe that if this harmful bacterium were to escape into your bloodstream, it could travel to the heart and infect the inner linings of its valves and chambers, which is known as endocarditis.
- Widespread inflammation: The body’s natural response to infection is inflammation. Studies suggest that a prolonged reaction to gum disease could allow this inflammation to spread throughout the body. Not only could this cause conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, but it could potentially clog important arteries and cause heart attacks.
Keep Your Smile and Your Heart Healthy
While gum disease can easily be prevented by great at-home oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, it can also be treated by more intensive services from your dentist, like deep cleanings, laser treatment, and surgery. Unfortunately, there’s not enough evidence to prove that treating gum disease will protect you from heart disease. However, there is enough of a compelling connection for health and dental experts to agree that good oral health is important for your overall wellbeing. When you take care of your smile with regular brushing and flossing, your whole body will thank you!
About the Author
Gum disease impacts the smiles and health of millions of people. Thankfully, your local Orange Park, FL dentist Dr. Matthew Nawrocki can help stop this common condition in its tracks and protect your teeth. While he can eliminate gum disease with treatments like deep cleanings, laser treatment, or surgery, he would much rather help you prevent it from developing in the first place with regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you’re concerned about the health of your gums, feel free to contact him via his website or at (904) 272-1588.