Gum Disease and Your Heart: What’s the Connection?

Published by The Advanced Institute for Oral Health

Want to keep your heart as healthy as possible? You can start by caring for your gums. Several studies have shown gum disease and heart disease may be linked, which makes regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups even more important than you may have previously thought.

The specific cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been identified yet, but what researchers know is this: People who have gum disease also have a much higher risk of having coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis, sometimes referred to as “hardening” of the arteries. Coronary artery disease develops when waxy plaque builds up in the arteries, making them less flexible and also making it harder for blood to flow through the arteries.

What do they have in common?

Most researchers think the link between gum and heart diseases works like this: Gum disease is caused by specific bacteria, and that bacteria can get into the bloodstream. When it does, it travels to the coronary arteries, where it contributes to clot formation and arterial blockage.

Some researchers believe the inflammatory process associated with gum disease also plays a role in plaque formation. That’s because both heart disease and gum disease are associated with the same inflammatory markers – biological indicators of inflammation, which is a hallmark of both gum disease and heart disease. The fact that the two diseases share the same biomarkers implies inflammation could be responsible for at least part of the link between them.

To date, several studies have supported the notion that gum disease can increase both the prevalence and the incidence of heart disease. A meta-analysis of 15 separate studies summed it up: After reviewing the results of those studies, the researchers found that the risk of developing heart disease was “significantly increased” in people with periodontal disease, and suggested periodontal disease should be considered a risk factor for heart disease. What’s more, they suggested treating underlying periodontal disease could help reduce the risk of developing heart disease in some patients.

So what can you do?

If you have heart disease or you have risk factors making you more likely to develop the disease, there are three specific steps you can – and should – take to help ensure your gums stay healthy so you can reduce or eliminate gum disease-related risks:

  • Brush and floss at least twice a day – and make sure you’re doing both correctly. Next time you’re in the dentist chair, ask the hygienist for tips in improving your brushing and flossing techniques. Lots of people think they’re brushing and flossing the way they should, but they’re actually holding their brush wrong or not flossing all the way down to the gum line.
  • See a periodontist for regular exams. Periodontists have additional training in gum disease and gum health, and they can help diagnose the disease before it has a chance to cause serious damage. When signs of gum disease are identified, your periodontist can also help recommend treatments that can treat the disease so your gums stay healthy.
  • Tell your periodontist and your dentist if you have heart disease. Some people with heart disease can benefit from a course of antibiotics before certain treatments to help avoid the spread of the germs that have been potentially linked with heart disease.

As a leading periodontist in Brentwood TN and Nashville TN, the Advanced Institute for Oral Health can help you keep your gums healthy and strong. To find out if you have gum disease or to learn ways to prevent it, call us today at 615-370-9486 and schedule an evaluation. Or click here to visit our contact page!