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The link between oral health and heart disease

It’s no secret that your oral health is linked to your overall wellness, but did you know research now shows there is a connection between oral health and heart disease?

According to studies, advanced gum disease can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Here’s what you should know about the connection, and how you can prevent and manage gum disease.

What is the connection between oral health and heart disease?

Oral health and heart disease are linked by the spread of bacteria from the mouth to other parts of the body. The bacteria in the mouth can spread through the blood stream, and in some cases, it can reach the heart and attach to damaged areas. When this happens, inflammation can occur, leading to infection, and other health issues. A number of conditions have been connected with the inflammation caused by bacteria in the mouth.

What are the risk factors?

People who suffer from gingivitis and periodontal disease are at greater risk of heart disease than those with healthy gums, especially if the condition is left untreated. The bacteria in the mouth associated with gum disease can enter into the blood stream. When in the blood stream, the bacteria can attach to the blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease. Also, the inflammation associated with gum disease can also affect other areas of the body and increase your chances of developing heart disease and stroke.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Some common symptoms of gum disease include:

  • swollen, tender gums
  • bleeding gums when brushing, eating and flossing
  • pus and other signs of infection around the teeth and gums
  • receding gums
  • chronic bad breath
  • bad taste in the mouth.

You may also notice that your teeth are loose, or that they are shifting away from your other teeth.

What causes gum disease?

In most cases, the bacteria in the mouth are harmless and don’t cause any damage to the teeth or gums. There is, however, a serious strain of bacteria known as streptococcus, which thrives on the acid produced by food and sugars, and causes them to multiply. When these bacteria accumulate on the teeth, plaque forms. Plaque is a sticky, colourless substance that, if left untreated, can solidify and turn to tartar. If tartar is left on the teeth, the gum tissue often becomes inflamed and infected, causing pain, receding gums, weakened teeth, and large gum pockets.

How can gum disease be prevented?

The best way to prevent gum disease is to practise good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and remember to floss every day.

It’s also very important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups every six months. Regular dental check-ups and cleans allow us to diagnose and treat any issues early, before they become more serious and complicated. Tartar and plaque can be removed during a professional clean, which can only be performed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Have you experienced some of the symptoms of gum disease, like bleeding gums, tenderness, and swelling? Even of you are suffering from the early stages of the condition, it is important to seek treatment to reduce the risk of tooth loss. In the past, extraction was the only option for patients suffering from periodontal disease. Today, there are a number of ways to treat the condition. Its effects can be stopped, and the progression of the disease can be halted with proper treatment. Make an appointment today and we will advise you of the best treatment plan for your needs.