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What is the Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Attacks?

People with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event, and researchers have explored the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular health for many decades now.

Gum disease is caused when the sticky, bacteria-laden film, referred to as dental plaque, builds up around teeth; another kind of plaque, made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in blood, builds up inside arteries of some people.  This fatty plaque is known as atherosclerosis, a coronary artery disease.

While many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems, there’s a rising notion in Harvard Medical School and many others that gum disease may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.

So what is the common thread between gum disease and heart disease, and how may plaque on your teeth be connected to plaque in your arteries?

According to Dr. Hatice Hasturk of the Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute, “Periodontal disease increases the body’s burden of inflammation.”

Chronic inflammation is shown to be a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis, and conquering it has become a deep focus of medical research in recent years.

The connection is compelling enough that dentists and many doctors point that treating gum disease will prevent cardiovascular disease or its complications, and emphasize the importance of being vigilant about preventing gum disease in the first place.

Any of these signs can be a clue that you have gum disease:

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Buildup of hard dark colored deposits along the gum line
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose teeth or teeth moving apart
  • Changes in how dental appliances fit

After eating, brushing teeth and flossing can prevent and even reverse an early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, yet many people don’t spend enough time or care when and flossing.  In addition, twice a year dental cleaning is advisable.

Gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease is left untreated – the gums become loose around the root of the tooth, creating a gum pocket that gradually deepens, and eventually causing the tooth to loosen and possibly fall out.

Your dentist can remove the root cause of the gum disease – plaque, during your regular teeth cleaning visits, and deep clean around all the affected areas where the most harmful bacteria resides.

If the disease is advanced, you might need a surgery.  If you already lost some teeth or need them removed due to periodontitis, rest assured modern dentistry’s best solution for replacing missing teeth is dental implants.

At Smiles By Stevens, we understand that healthy teeth are essential, not just for a sparkly vibrant smile, but for your overall health as well.  So take charge of your oral health today – your heart will thank you, too!

Dr. Shea F. Stevens specializes in general, cosmetic, and implant dentistry and was recently named one of PA’s top 20 dentists.  For Dr. Stevens and his team, greatest satisfaction comes from creating or restoring a healthy, attractive, and confident smile for you!

Call our Lancaster PA dental office today at (717) 581-0123!