It’s not uncommon for your dentist to tell you that good oral health is important to your overall health, but your heart’s health is probably the last thing you consider when thinking about going to the dentist. Though it may seem strange, oral and heart health are connected, and it’s important to know how that connection could affect you.
How are oral and heart health linked?
Studies show that people with moderate or advanced gum disease are at higher risk for heart disease than those with healthy gums. This is because germs and bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, including the heart. Bacteria may also attach to blood vessels or simply stay in the bloodstream.
This could cause inflammation, infections, clogged arteries, stroke and more.
Additionally, dental health can indicate the presence of a variety of conditions and diseases, including those of the heart. Gum disease acts as a warning signal for doctors of an underlying issue.
Who’s at risk?
Those with advanced periodontal disease or gingivitis are at the highest risk of heart disease, especially if their gum disease goes undiagnosed. Built-up plaque and inadequate oral hygiene practices put you at risk for gum disease, which may go unnoticed until visible inflammation or infection occurs. Signs of gum disease include:
- Swollen, red or sore gums
- Bleeding of the gums after brushing, flossing or eating
- Signs of infection, like pus, around your gums and teeth
- Gums that are receding from the teeth (making them seem longer)
- Frequent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- Teeth that feel like they’re shifting away from other teeth or are loose
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a dental health professional.
How can I promote good gum health?
The best way to prevent gum disease is to follow good oral hygiene practices. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily and go to the dentist for regular cleanings. Keep in mind that being proactive and aware when it comes to oral health goes a long way toward keeping yourself healthy.