the link between gum disease and heart disease - anatomical heart model

The Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease

Gum disease can wreak havoc on your teeth, but it’s more dangerous than most people think. If it goes untreated, gum disease can also affect other parts of your body—even your heart. Let’s explore how gum disease may eventually lead to heart disease. 

What Is Gum Disease?

Nearly half of all adults over the age of 30 have periodontal disease, an infection of the gums caused by plaque and bacteria buildup. Gum disease begins with symptoms like bleeding, tender, red, or swollen gums—this early stage is known as gingivitis. 

Without treatment, gingivitis will progress to the early and moderate stages of periodontitis.  During these stages, the gums begin to recede, and pockets can form between your gums and teeth that trap bacteria and make you more vulnerable to infections. The final stage, advanced periodontitis, can result in painful abscesses, tooth loss, and bone loss in the jaw. 

What’s the Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease?

Gum disease is caused by excessive bacteria in your mouth that cause inflammation and bleeding. Research has shown that this combination allows harmful bacteria to enter your bloodstream, where they can cause inflammation in other parts of your body. 

The same bacteria that are associated with gum disease can lead to inflammation that causes blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. Although gum disease doesn’t cause heart disease directly, it can increase your risk if the infectious bacteria spread to your bloodstream. 

The Link Between Gum Disease and Other Health Conditions

Your heart isn’t the only organ that can be affected by a gum infection. The bacteria and inflammation associated with gum disease can also increase your risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer

Treatments for Gum Disease 

To protect your oral health, heart, and other organs, It’s essential that you seek treatment for gum disease as soon as you start noticing symptoms. The type of treatment will depend on how far the infection has progressed. The first stage, gingivitis, can sometimes be reversed with good oral hygiene and professional teeth cleanings. 

Early and moderate periodontitis can be treated with scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning that removes plaque and tartar below the gumline. Severe cases of periodontitis may require surgical treatments such as gum reattachment, gum grafting, or bone grafting. 

How to Prevent Gum Disease

Even if you treat gum disease, it can easily return unless you take action to prevent it. Gum disease prevention involves:

  • Good oral hygiene—Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, floss daily, and use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Regular dental checkups—You need to see your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and exams. Cleanings eliminate the plaque that you can’t remove at home, and exams allow your dentist to notice the early signs of gum disease. 
  • A healthy diet—The bacteria that cause gum disease feed off of sugar and starch, so try to reduce your intake of fruit juices, sugary treats, potatoes, pasta, etc. Foods and drinks that promote healthy gums include citrus fruits, fiber-rich vegetables, dairy products, ginger tea, and water. 

Gum Disease Prevention and Treatment in Gilbert, Arizona

You can lower your risk of heart disease and gum disease with preventative dental care. At Lifetime Family Dental, we can help you keep gum disease at bay with gentle cleanings and exams. We can also treat gum disease with scaling and root planing and other services. Give us a call at 480-558-4331 today to set up an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/21/2023). Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash