You do everything you can to take care of your health. From maintaining a healthy diet to exercising regularly, you make your health a priority. But if you’re not equally as diligent about your oral health, your heart may be in jeopardy.
Recent research suggests that there’s a strong link between gum disease and heart disease. While the two may not seem like they have much in common at first glance, the more you learn about their connection, the easier it is to see how they’re related.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, typically starts out as an inflammatory gum infection called gingivitis. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque — a sticky film of bacteria — on your teeth and gums. As gum disease progresses, it can advance to periodontitis, which happens when plaque sits in small pockets beneath the gum line.
Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, is caused by an entirely different type of plaque called atherosclerosis, which is made from cholesterol and fat. This gradual buildup of atherosclerosis is a serious health concern if left untreated. It’s one of the leading causes of heart attack.
How They're Connected
While medical experts don’t know exactly why gum disease increases your chances of developing heart disease, they believe that untreated periodontitis can cause bacteria from your mouth to travel through your bloodstream, which clogs your arteries and raises your risk of heart infection.
As your arteries become clogged with plaque and bacteria, they can narrow and harden, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Gum disease is certainly not the only condition that’s been connected to heart disease. Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), poor diet choices, and unhealthy lifestyle habits all increase your risk of heart disease.
However, you can protect your gums and heart by making yourself aware of the early warning signs of gum disease, before it advances to periodontitis.
The most common gum disease symptoms include:
- Gum inflammation;
- Bleeding gums;
- Gum sensitivity;
- Pain when chewing;
- Loose teeth;
- Receding gums;
- Halitosis (bad breath);