Taking care of our gums and teeth not only gives us a great looking smile but can also can have a positive effect on our overall health including heart disease. There has been many studies and debating about the link between dental health and heart disease. We do know that our oral health holds clues to our overall health and that brushing, flossing and regular dental checks up can be the keys to lead us to better health.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, there is no evidence at this time that gum disease directly causes heart attacks. However scientific evidence suggests an association between gum disease and heart disease. Four scientific (prospective) studies have found an association between periodontal disease and heart disease. One study, published in 1999 in Cardiovascular, found that among Canadians aged 36 to 69 individuals with a severe gum disease had a three to seven times increased risk of fatal heart disease.
Gum disease is not something that happens overnight as there are several stages that occur over time for gum disease to develop. Gum disease is caused by plaque that builds up on the teeth, along and below the gum line. Plaque is a soft, sticky, transparent film that forms on your teeth every day and adheres to the tooth surface and along the gum line. It is formed from bacteria, sugars and food debris. If plaque is not removed from the teeth and gums within 24 hours then it hardens into tartar.
Tartar, also known as calculus, is plaque that has not been removed from teeth and has hardened onto the surface of the tooth. It is hard, non sticky, visible and is yellow in colour. Tartar adheres to both the surface of the tooth, in between the teeth and even below the gum line. Tartar build up is a very hard substance that creates a strong bond to the teeth and can only be removed by a Dental Professional through a process called scaling. The tartar that is left on the teeth and below the gum line can eventually lead to gingivitis, gum disease and periodontal disease.
The connection between gum disease and heart disease may have to do with the bacteria from infected gums as well as inflammation caused by gum disease which may trigger clot formation. Some researchers suggest that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. When clots are present, they can decrease blood flow to the heart which causes an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Gum disease might indicate an early sign of cardiovascular problems and if there are symptoms of painful and bleeding gums, these might be an indication of other health issues occurring in our body. Studies have shown that oral health can provide warning signs for other diseases or conditions which includes heart disease.
There is also thought to be a link between people who have good oral hygiene routines also living a healthy lifestyle and including eating nutrient rich foods, exercising and being less likely to smoke . These are all factors that contribute to having a healthy heart and taking preventative measures to reduce cardiovascular diseases.
If you are concerned about whether or not you have gum disease, there are some symptoms to look:
- Bleeding, red, tender and swollen gums
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Visible buildup of tartar on the teeth
- Teeth that are loose
- A constant bad tasted in your mouth
Keeping up on your oral hygiene along with regular dental check ups is an excellent way to stay on top of keeping a mouth clean and reducing bacteria in it that causes gum disease. The next time you pick up your toothbrush and floss, you’ll be doing more than keeping your teeth healthy, you might also be preventing other serious health problems.
Your North Burnaby Dental Group Dentist has the skills, training and expertise to identify and address all your oral health care needs. If you have questions about gum disease and how it can impact your heart health and overall health, be sure to talk to them at your next dental check up.