Our bodies are miraculous machines. We are made up of interconnected systems, organs, veins and more that work in tandem to keep us moving forward in our daily lives. When one of our parts is damaged or loses its functionality, it can affect other surprising areas of our body that we might not think are related.
Our teeth and gums, for example. They are there to help us chew food for digestion and maybe put a smile on our face. That’s it. Where is it? Did you know that a body of evidence in the health and science community suggests that gum health is linked to heart health?
Scientists and researchers have investigated the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health for several decades. Today we’re going to explore the connection and how it can affect our heart health.
What are the causes of gum disease?
The main culprit and cause of gum disease is plaque. But there are other causes of gum infection besides dental plaque that you may not be as familiar with. Here are some common causes of gum disease:
- Accumulation of plaques. Plaque is a thick film of bacteria that forms on our gums and teeth that daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing remove. Plaque film is a sticky, colorless, or pale yellow coating that constantly forms between and on our teeth. It begins to form about 4 to 12 hours after brushing, which is why brushing your teeth at least twice a day is essential. Bacteria in plaque create acids that begin to attack and then erode tooth enamel. Eroded enamel allows bacteria to get inside the tooth and leads to cavities and the early stages of gum disease called gingivitis, which can cause bad breath, discolor your teeth and then lead to periodontal disease.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco interferes with the natural functioning of cells in the gum tissue, making your mouth more vulnerable to infections like gum disease.
- Pregnancy, monthly menstrual cycles, and hormonal changes can make your teeth and gums more vulnerable.
- Certain prescription drugs. Suppose you are prescribed or taken medications that have side effects that reduce the amount of saliva you make, leaving your mouth dry. A drier mouth can promote the spread of bacteria.
- It can be difficult to get your daily vitamins. However, if you don’t get enough vitamin C, it could be particularly harmful to your gums.
- Family history also plays a big role. If you have a family history of gum disease, be sure to talk to your dentist, as it can put you at a higher risk of developing a bacterial infection.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues (the gums) that hold your teeth in place. It can be caused by poor dental hygiene, such as improper brushing technique and lack of dental floss. However, it can be caused by different reasons, which can be found listed above.
Left untreated, gum disease can get worse over time. Not only does this create an infection in your gums, but it can then start to destroy and erode the bone that supports our teeth.
What are the signs of gum disease?
Healthy gums are firm, pale pink, and conform perfectly to your teeth. Signs and symptoms of gum disease can include things such as:
- Swollen and swollen gums.
- Bright red, dark red, or purplish gums.
- Gums sore or tender to the touch.
- When brushing or flossing, the gums bleed.
- Toothbrush or pink-tinted saliva after brushing or flossing or spitting afterwards.
- Abrupt or increased bad breath.
- Pus between teeth and gums.
- Loose teeth or tooth loss.
- Painful chewing.
- New spaces between the teeth.
- Gums that have receded have receded or appear to have shrunk from your teeth, making them appear longer.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
How gum health is linked to heart health
Published in February 2021, the Forsyth Institute and Harvard University Scientist and Colleges investigated the correlation between periodontitis (gum disease) and the increased risk of experiencing major cardiovascular events.(1)
Scientists have studied the relationship between gum disease that is active over a long period of time and whether or not it is predictive of arterial inflammation, which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and other dangerous symptoms of cardiovascular disease.
For the study, researchers used both CT scans and CT scans on more than 300 people to visualize and assess inflammation in each patient’s arteries and gums. Four years later, during their follow-up, 13 of the patients developed significant adverse cardiovascular events – and additional research showed periodontal inflammation predicted cardiovascular events, even after scientists controlled for all other risk factors. , including smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
Most importantly, they found that bone loss from previous periodontal disease was not associated with cardiovascular events. This means that patients who no longer had actively inflamed gums or who were actively being treated for their gum disease had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, even if they had experienced bone loss before treating the disease.
While more research will be conducted to investigate this link, Van Dyke, vice president of clinical and translational research at Forsyth, says, “This most definitely relates to people who currently have active inflammatory disease. Scientists believe that when the gums become inflamed due to periodontal disease, it activates and mobilizes signaling cells throughout the bone marrow that trigger inflammation in the arteries, leading to unwanted heart problems and events.
What you can do to minimize gum disease
If you don’t currently have any signs or symptoms of gum disease, here are some preventative measures to help keep your gums healthy and happy.
- Establish a twice-daily oral care routine. Prevention of gingivitis involves maintaining a basic organ hygiene routine. Brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash to prevent odor-causing bacteria from forming on your teeth.
- Most importantly: visit your dentist and make sure you have regular teeth cleaning at least every six months. Professional cleanings can deep clean and remove the most stubborn plaques. Your dentist and dental hygienist are trained to spot signs of gum disease probably long before you do, and the sooner you can get it treated, the easier it will be to keep it at bay.
- If you start to experience any signs or symptoms of gum disease, it is essential to see a dentist as soon as possible.
When it comes to health and wellness, it is essential to try and keep our bodies as healthy as possible from top to bottom and from the inside out!