Good dental health isn’t just essential for a beautiful smile, regular dental check-ups are also important to help maintain overall health and well-being. This article will focus on the possible link between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease, looking at what research has found so far and offering advice on preventing gum disease from developing.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum or periodontal disease occurs when plaque builds up near and below the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film made of bacteria that forms on teeth surfaces—it can harden over time into tartar, which is even more challenging to remove. If not removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and, eventually, gum disease.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Red or swollen gums
Tenderness when chewing or biting food
Bleeding during brushing/flossing
Receding gums in certain areas
Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
Risk Factors for Developing Gum Disease
Poor Oral Hygiene
Not brushing twice a day or not flossing regularly can increase the risk of developing gum disease.
Smoking is a significant risk factor as it reduces the body’s ability to fight infection.
Some medications reduce saliva production, leading to an increased gum disease risk.
People with diabetes are more prone to oral health issues and may develop gum disease more quickly than those without diabetes.
Treatment for Gum Disease
Treatment for gum disease depends on its stage—early diagnosis and regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist will help prevent further damage. Mild cases of gingivitis may improve with regular brushing and flossing, while moderate-to-severe patients may require scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) and, in some cases, periodontal surgery.
The Link Between Gum Disease & Heart Disease
Recent research has suggested that there may be a link between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease. Studies have found that people with heart disease are more likely to have gum disease and vice versa. While the exact cause is still unknown, it’s thought that the bacteria from plaque and tartar build-up can enter the bloodstream through regular brushing and flossing, leading to inflammation throughout the body—including your heart. This inflammation can increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
What Research Has Found So Far
A recent study of over 500 people with heart disease found that those with gum disease were more likely to have had a stroke or heart attack in the past three years. Another study also found that regular dental visits reduce your risk of developing heart disease, while regular brushing and flossing can reduce your risk by up to 50 percent. Other research has suggested that regular dental check-ups may help to detect early signs of heart disease before other symptoms become apparent.
How To Reduce Your Risk
To minimize your risk of developing gum disease, there are some simple steps you can take. Firstly, ensure you brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily—this will help remove plaque and tartar, reducing your risk of gum disease. Secondly, regular dental check-ups are essential—your dentist or hygienist can identify early signs of gum disease and offer advice on improving your oral hygiene.
What Else Can I Do?
There are a few other lifestyle changes you can make that may reduce your risk of developing gum disease:
Smoking increases the risk of developing gum disease by reducing the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Eat a balanced diet
A healthy, balanced diet will help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Regular exercise lowers inflammation levels throughout the body, including in the gums.
Gum disease is a severe condition that can affect your overall health, increasing your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Regular dental check-ups, brushing, flossing, and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking can all help to reduce your risk. Keeping up with regular dental visits and maintaining good oral hygiene habits are crucial to keeping your teeth and gums healthy—and, in turn, reducing your risk of developing gum disease and heart disease.
The symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, or tender gums, bleeding when brushing/flossing, receding gums, chronic bad breath, and loss of teeth.
Regular brushing and flossing are key to reducing your risk of developing gum disease. However, regular dental check-ups are also important—your dentist or hygienist can spot early signs of gum disease and advise you on improving your oral hygiene.
Besides regular brushing/flossing and regular dental visits, quitting smoking and eating a balanced diet may help reduce your risk of developing gum disease. Exercise regularly, as regular exercise lowers inflammation throughout the body, which can help to reduce your risk of gum disease.