Heart Health and the Dental Connection

man holding paper heart

February is American Heart Month! What does heart health have to do with oral health? Evidence suggests… a lot!

Science has found two very distinct links between a person’s oral health and heart health. Signs of heart disease may be noticeable in a person’s gum tissue, and someone with gum disease has a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Heart disease claims over 600,000 lives each year, and having gum disease increases your risk of heart attack by almost 30%. Those are some staggering statistics!

Studies suggest that your oral health and heart health are linked by bacteria’s spread through the bloodstream. When bacteria that live in your mouth enter the bloodstream, they can reach your heart and cause inflammation. Inflammation in the heart could cause endocarditis (an infection in the lining of the heart), clogged arteries, or stroke.

Some common risk factors for both heart disease and gum disease include:

  • Smoking
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Diabetes

heart with stethoscope

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If caught early, the effects of gingivitis can be stopped, and the symptoms reversed. However, once gum disease progresses past a certain point, it becomes a chronic condition you will have for the rest of your life.

Symptoms of gingivitis can include red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss and bad breath. When gum disease progresses, symptoms can range from gums that appear to pull away from the teeth to bone loss causing your teeth to become loose.

While some people may be more genetically predisposed to developing heart disease or gum disease, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any control in the matter. A healthy lifestyle and caring for your body are the best preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing these potentially deadly diseases.

heart healthy food on table

Here are some ways to help prevent heart disease and gum disease:

    Brush and floss twice a day
    See your dentist for regular exams even if you have full dentures
    Don’t smoke cigarettes or vape and avoid smokeless tobacco products
    Eat a healthy diet that’s low in processed foods and sugar
    Drink plenty of water
    Exercise regularly

Even if you have already been diagnosed with heart disease or gum disease, it’s never too late to make changes in your life to reduce their progression. Adopting these new habits can be beneficial to your health and help keep you strong and healthy at any age.

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