Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart
Over the years there have been a number of studies performed that show that infections in the mouth can be linked with problems in other parts of the body. Specifically gum disease can cause or make heart disease worse.
Gum disease is currently the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the UK.
Signs of Gum Disease
There are a number of signs of gum disease to look out for and if you notice any of these symptoms you should visit your dental team.
- Inflammation of the gums, causing them to be red, swollen and to bleed easily
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Irregular mouth infections
Many people will suffer with some form of gum disease at some point in their life. Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the surface of teeth and gums. There are bacteria present in the plaque that have been found to be the leading cause of gum disease.
Smoking has been shown to exacerbate the condition. If you smoke you are more likely to have high levels of bacteria present in the plaque on your teeth and because of the reduced oxygen in your bloodstream, infected gums will heal more slowly if at all.
Gum disease and a healthy heart
People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery heart disease as people without gum disease. It is thought that bacteria present in the mouth enter the blood stream. This bacteria produce proteins which can affect the heart by causing the platelets in the blood to stick together in the blood vessels of the heart. This will increase the chance of blood clots forming. Blood clots can reduce normal blood flow, so the heart does not get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs.
If the blood flow becomes badly enough affected it could lead to a heart attack.
The first sign that you may have gum disease will be bleeding gums when brushing your teeth. At each check-up the dentist will assess your teeth and gums for any sign of gum disease. They will use probes to measure the amount of gum present around the teeth and may take x-rays to determine if there has been any bone loss in your jaw.
The dentist will remove any plaque or tartar present on your teeth and will refer you to the hygienist or a specialist periodontologist for ongoing cleanings. By attending for regular scaling and polishing and adopting an effective oral hygiene routine at home it is possible to halt the progression of gum disease and in some circumstances even reverse its spread.
If gum disease is left untreated it can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis causes gums to recede and can lead to a loss in the bone which anchors the teeth to the jaw. This means that over time teeth may become loose and even eventually fall out. There is no cure for periodontitis but it can be controlled with effective home oral hygiene routines.
By looking after your teeth and gums you can also help to ensure that your heart stays healthy. Another reason to ensure you attend for your regular dental appointments.