Get to the Heart of Oral Health
Research shows a link between gum disease and heart disease and stroke. Evidence is
mounting that people with periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection, may be
more at risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, gum disease may also worsen existing
The inflammation caused by gum disease may contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits
inside heart arteries.
Although gum disease is not an independent risk factor for heart disease or stroke,
there are findings showing a possible link. According to the National Institute of
Dental and Craniofacial Research, research findings do not show clear proof linking
periodontal disease to other health problems beyond the mouth. But, there may be some
association through inflammatory responses.
What can you do?
First, be aware of the following possible warning signs of gum disease:
Red, swollen or tender gums
Bleeding while brushing or flossing
Gums that pull away from the teeth
Loose or separating teeth
Persistent bad breath
Healthy teeth and gums could help cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Although
you can’t guarantee that you’ll never have a heart attack, you may be able to reduce
your risk with daily brushing and flossing.
Most important, visit your dentist for an exam and a cleaning twice a year, or as
often as your dentist recommends, because sometimes gum disease is invisible. If plaque
is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar. Even if
you think you’re doing a great job flossing, plaque can still remain in your mouth.
Only a dental professional can remove the tartar and plaque that you may miss.
Taking extra care
For those with heart disease, the American Heart Association has some advice. First,
establish and maintain a healthy mouth. Practice good oral hygiene and visit your
dentist regularly. Second, make sure your dentist knows that you have a heart problem.
Ask your provider whether you need a bacterial endocarditis wallet card. Third, carefully
follow your healthcare provider’s and dentist’s instructions when they prescribe special
medicines such as antibiotics.
The good news is that gum disease is preventable. And if you have gum disease, it
can be treated.