Periodontal and Cardio Disease – Do Healthy Gums Equal a Healthy Heart?

As medical knowledge gallops ahead, so does the understanding that the body operates as a single, whole organism. More and more we are discovering links between what appear to be disparate parts of the body, and as such we are examining the link between periodontal and cardio disease.

Can the state of your mouth really affect your heart? The medical community is exploring possible evidence which has surfaced which links poor oral hygiene with an increased risk of heart disease.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease refers to infections of the supporting structures around the teeth which include gums, bones and ligaments. Gingivitis is an early indicator of gum disease caused by a bacterial infection and generally related to poor oral hygiene.

Lesion, Gingivitis (crop), CC BY-SA 3.0 1

Indicators of Periodontal Disease

Too many people are unaware of the germ war waging in their mouths, and often only visit a dentist when they experience pain or loss of their teeth. The American Association of Periodontology (AAP) offers some warning signs that we can all look out for to make sure we are not oblivious to this common gum disease:

  • your gums are red, swollen and sore to the touch.
  • your gums bleed when you eat, brush or floss.
  • you see pus or other signs of infection around the gums and teeth.
  • your gums look as if they are “pulling away” from the teeth.
  • you frequently have bad breath or notice a bad taste in your mouth.
  • or some of your teeth are loose or feel as if they are moving away from the other teeth.

But, what exactly is the problem? Surely our mouths are far enough from our heart so as not to cause a problem?

The Link Between Periodontal and Cardio Disease

The culprit that we are looking for here lies in the bacteria within our mouths. Our skin generally does a pretty decent job of keeping bacteria out of our sensitive internal organs, but an infected mouth can allow germs into our bloodstream which are then carried to various parts of the body. When our bodies face infection, inflammation sets in as our immune system seeks to isolate and destroy the foreign bodies it has located.

When the bacteria from our mouths enters our bloodstream, it is very likely to enter the heart as it circulates. Should it attach itself to any damaged area, inflammation sets in. As we know, inflammation of our heart or arteries can lead to endocarditis (infected inner lining of the heart), clogged arteries or stroke. Studies from the Cleveland Clinic indicate that bacteria in the bloodstream causes elevated levels of C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflamed blood vessels.)

Are you at risk?

Poor dental hygiene places an unnecessary and wholly avoidable burden on your body and your heart. Adding oral disease to other risk factors such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a poor diet, smoking, and high blood pressure, places you precariously close to heart disease.

So, what is the solution?

Thankfully, it’s a simple one. Take better care of yourself! Maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying a well-rounded diet and a life free from toxins (i.e. stop smoking!) takes you off the red list and reduces the possibility of preventable, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, colon cancer, hypertension and dementia.

But don’t stop there.

Brush regularly with a soft brush, floss daily, use an anti-bacterial mouthwash – and be sure to visit your dentist regularly. (Note, once every six years is not considered ‘regular.’) Frequent dental check-ups will ensure that the little issues in your teeth and gums don’t become big things. Professional cleaning will remove any particles that may be hiding in your mouth which may be decomposing and causing bad breath and a buildup of bacteria.

Indeed, the link between periodontal and cardio disease can be mitigated by taking care of your whole body, from top to toe. Why not visit one of our dental clinics? We’ll take care of the ‘top’.