Understand the Link Between Dental Care and Heart Health

May 1, 2015 @ 10:00 AM — by Lisbeth Bradley DDS

Man with glasses smiling on white backgroundYou probably know that it’s important to take care of your mouth, but recent research suggests that your oral hygiene could have a bigger impact on your life than you even realize. At our dental practice, Dr. Lis Bradley and our team provide general dentistry treatments to help patients maintain their smile and improve their overall well being. We take pride in helping our patients enjoy beautiful smiles and an excellent quality of life. As part of our preventive dentistry care, we are committed to educating patients about the connection between oral and general wellness. In the following blog post, we highlight the link between dental care and heart health, and explain how we can enhance both at our Nashville practice. 

What Is Gum Disease?

The same plaque that can coat your teeth in bacteria and increase your risk for cavities can also develop beneath your gums, causing periodontal infection. Gum disease comes in two stages. The first is gingivitis, during which your tissue begins to swell and become tender. If you bleed from flossing, this could be a sign that you are suffering from this condition. If it is caught early enough, gingivitis can be easily treated with improved oral hygiene. However, if left untreated, your gum disease could progress to periodontitis, a more advanced condition in which the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets of harmful bacteria. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and systemic infection. It may require more intensive treatment such as deep cleaning or, in severe cases, oral surgery.

The Periodontal and Cardiac Health Connection

Recent studies suggest a correlation between periodontal (gum) and cardiac (heart) health. This means that patients who suffer from gum disease are more likely to have heart conditions. The Academy of General Dentistry found that patients with persistent periodontal infections were more vulnerable to heart attacks. Similarly, a report from the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that study subjects who had lost teeth to periodontitis were 57 percent more likely to suffer from a potentially life-threatening stroke. Researchers still do not fully understand the relationship between heart disease and oral health, but the most likely explanation is that both can result in systemic inflammation and infection. 

What You Can Do for Your Health

The studies on dental care and heart health can be sobering, but they also allow you to take simple yet effective preventive steps. A recent study from the Forsyth Institute found that simply applying a topical anti-inflammatory treatment to swollen gums could limit vascular swelling and thereby help prevent heart attack. This suggests that maintaining your gums could help you protect your heart. Dr. Bradley recommends taking the following steps to keep your gums clean and healthy:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice per day for at least two minutes.
  • Floss your teeth at least once per day. This is especially important, since flossing is the only way to remove plaque trapped between teeth and beneath gum tissue.
  • Come to our office for biannual cleanings and examinations, during which Dr. Bradley will assess your tissue for any swelling, abnormalities, or other signs of gum disease. If Dr. Bradley diagnoses you with periodontal infection, she can prescribe an appropriate treatment to address this condition.

Protect Your Smile and Your Heart

The first step to proactively improving your wellbeing is to better understand what can influence it. To learn more about how gum disease could affect your cardiovascular health or schedule an appointment, contact the dental office of Lis Bradley, DDS today.

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