A recent study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has provided further evidence that gum disease may increase the risk of developing heart disease.1 The study was a follow-up to a previous one by the same group, which found that gum disease was more prevalent in first-time heart attack patients than in a group of healthy people. Researchers say the risk of having experienced a cardiovascular event during the follow-up study was higher in patients with gum disease. The more severe a patient’s gum disease, the higher the risk of heart problems.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease (or periodontal disease) is a serious condition that nearly half (47.2%) of adults aged 30 in the U.S. experience.2 It’s caused by an imbalance of the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your mouth. The “good” bacteria protect your mouth and keep it healthy, while the “bad” bacteria can cause infection. When the gums become inflamed, pockets can form between the gums and teeth, which then can become infected with even more bacteria. If left untreated, it can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, which can lead to bone loss and teeth becoming loose or even falling out. 

Gum disease increases the inflammatory markers throughout your entire body. That means it has a significant impact on your overall health, including an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Gum disease has also been linked to many other health conditions, including Alzheimer’s, respiratory disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and even cancer. 

How does gum disease increase the risk of heart disease?

Researchers suspect the reason gum disease increases the risk of heart disease can be attributed to gum tissue damage. It allows germs to enter the bloodstream, which can fuel “harmful changes to the blood vessels” and/or “enhance systemic inflammation” that also harms the vessels.

With an average follow-up time of just over six years, participants with gum disease were found to be 49% more likely to die of any cause, experience a nonfatal heart attack or stroke or develop severe heart failure. The risk increased with the severity of their gum disease.

How do I prevent gum disease?

Brushing and flossing regularly are the first defenses against gum disease, because it eliminates the harmful bacteria that can gather in the mouth and cause infection. You should also get professional cleanings twice a year to keep up your oral hygiene and make sure you catch any potential problems as soon as possible.

If you already have gum disease, it can often be treated and maintained with regular dental visits. More severe damage may require deeper cleaning, medication or even corrective surgery.

Warning Signs of Gum Disease

If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, talk to your dentist about the possibility of gum disease:3

  • Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Change in the fit of partial dentures

Oral Health Impacts Overall Wellness

Research like this study only confirms and enhances our philosophy at Nashville Restorative Dentistry that oral health has a significant impact on whole-body wellness. Prioritizing your dental hygiene and oral health are some of the best ways to be proactive about your long-term health.

Click here to learn more about how holistic dentistry differs from traditional dentistry, or visit our Holistic Dentistry Services page to learn about the treatment options available.
Ready to schedule an appointment? Dr. Jones, Dr. Estes, and the entire team at Nashville Restorative Dentistry would be delighted to serve you.

References

1 HealthDay News, More Evidence Ties Gum Disease With Heart Disease

2 CDC, Periodontal Disease

3 CDC, Periodontal Disease