Many people don’t realize the surprising connection between gum disease and heart disease. Study after study shows that people with poor oral health have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. Learn about the link between your mouth and your heart so you know how to protect your health.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease develops when sticky, bacteria-laden plaque builds up on the teeth. If not removed, plaque hardens along the gum line into a brown substance called tartar. Plaque and tartar irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Pockets form between your gums and teeth, which fill with more bacteria, plaque, and tartar, causing the problem to gradually worsen. Ongoing inflammation and lack of dental care can lead to periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease.
What Causes Heart Disease?
A completely different kind of plaque consisting of fat and cholesterol can build up in the arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this plaque buildup is the hallmark of coronary artery disease. The most common causes of atherosclerosis are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.
What Do Your Gums Have to Do with Your Heart?
Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. Still, the connection is undeniable. In fact, both the American Dental Association and the American Heart Association have acknowledged the relationship. Here are some theories as to why gum health may be linked to heart health:
- The body’s immune response to gum disease is to increase inflammation. This sets off a cascade of chronic inflammation throughout the body, a key contributor to plaque buildup and blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
- The bacteria associated with gum disease may enter the bloodstream, causing blood vessel swelling and damage to heart valves.
- Gum disease bacteria produce chemicals and substances that make the artery walls stickier and more permeable. As a result, cholesterol particles are more likely to get trapped and create plaque deposits.
Your Gums Affect Other Aspects of Your Health
The connection between gum disease and heart disease is concerning enough, but studies have also linked gum disease with other health conditions. Your risk of developing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications increase if you have gum disease.
It’s clear that when your teeth and gums are compromised, the rest of your body may suffer. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss daily, chew sugarless gum between meals, and reserve dentist visits every six months.
At West County Dental, we can help protect your smile—and the rest of your body—with our general dentistry services. We’ll clean your teeth, check for signs of gum disease, and offer easy-to-understand home care instructions to preserve your oral health between visits. To request a dental visit with our St. Louis dentist, please call us at (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.
Everyone wants bright, white teeth and healthy gums, but even the best oral hygiene may not be enough to meet your goals. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting the dentist a minimum of every six months. Some people may need more frequent visits, depending on their oral health.
Despite this recommendation, only 58 percent of American adults see the dentist at least once a year. If you’ve been putting off your next visit, learn more about the importance of regular dentist visits here.
Why Visit the Dentist?
No amount of brushing and flossing can replace having your teeth professionally cleaned. Consider these reasons why regular dentist visits are so important for good oral health:
- Prevent cavities and gum disease
- Brighten your smile
- Combat bad breath
- Stop tooth loss in its tracks
- Promote good overall health
- Save money on restorative procedures
What to Expect During a Dentist Visit
Most routine dentist visits take an hour. However, your visit could take longer if it’s been more than a year since your last dental visit or you need additional treatment for a chronic condition such as periodontal disease.
Dentist visits consist of several parts:
- Digital X-rays: Your dentist may recommend X-rays about once a year or as needed. The image produced by a digital X-ray provides a more in-depth look at what’s going on beneath the surface. It can help your dentist detect problems early on, even if you don’t have any outward symptoms yet. This saves you time and money and preserves your oral health.
- Oral exam: Your dentist examines your jaw, neck, and lymph nodes for irregularities. A mouth exam comes next, where the dentist assesses your teeth, gums, and soft tissues. This includes checking your bite, looking for damaged crowns or fillings, evaluating any dental appliances you have, and checking for signs of oral cancer.
- Teeth cleaning: A hygienist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. Flossing then removes any debris caught between your teeth or along the gum line. Finally, polishing your teeth leaves your mouth looking and feeling cleaner than ever. You may also receive a fluoride treatment.
- Personalized recommendations: Perhaps your dentist noticed plaque buildup in a particular area or is concerned about your receding gums or eroding enamel. Your visit concludes with professional suggestions to improve your oral health, such as using a specific toothbrush or mouth rinse, coming in for more frequent cleanings, or wearing a mouthguard while you sleep. Adhering to these expert tips is the best way to keep your teeth and gums in top shape.
General dentistry is the foundation of the services we offer here at West County Dental. We can help preserve your smile with regular cleanings and checkups. We also provide restorative and cosmetic dentistry to correct any flaws in your smile. To reserve a visit with our St. Louis dentist, please call (314) 488-2921 or contact us online.
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