Whilst it might seem an unusual suggestion that mouth and heart health are linked, the idea that they actually are has been a continuous discourse for quite some years. Researchers have been probing the idea for quite some time, but it’s only more recently that we’re starting to see the tangible proof that supports the connection.
Thanks to a number of studies, it’s known that people with gum disease are 2-3 times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or severe cardiovascular attack.
Despite the previously speculative, but now proven connection, many people continue to smoke and engage in other lifestyle habits that heighten their risk of gum and heart disease. This suggests there’s still work to be done to educate people on how to reduce their chances of related health issues and make this kind of knowledge more commonplace.
The biggest revelation made between heart and gum health was made after a leading-edge study in 2009-2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found almost 50% of American adults aged 30 and older and 70% of those 65 and older had some degree of gum disease. This triggered more in-depth (and in part currently inconclusive) research, which we’re going to take a look at….
Inflammation: why it’s a danger to your health
It’s still unclear whether inflammation of the gums causes heart disease or solely exacerbates it and research is still ongoing. What we do know is that oral bacteria are often found in the fatty deposits of people with atherosclerosis (AKA, a build-up of plaque in the arteries).
When left untreated, this can cause a heart attack or stroke. The bacteria in the mouth that comes about due to gum disease has the ability to enter the bloodstream, infecting those with vulnerable heart valves.
Reducing your risk of gum disease
Even if research isn’t crystal clear about the connection between heart and gum health, you should still be diligent in taking care of your health.
Whilst it appears to be true that those with more vulnerable heart health are pre-disposed to their gum health affecting their stroke and heart disease risk, it’s important that even if you do have good cardiac health, you practice healthy dental hygiene habits.
This involves visiting the hygienist once or twice a year (this varies from person to person) to have a scale and polish of your teeth, to remove the plaque and tartar that collects around the gum line. By having this regularly removed, you reduce your chances of advanced gum disease and the associated heart complications. You can also turn to your hygienist for advice and education on how to improve your hygiene routine.
They’ll be able to take a look at your lifestyle and help you cut out the aspects that could be hindering your dental hygiene – namely smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
If you’re not persuaded by visiting the hygienist on a regular basis, this piece from The Independent, written by a dental professional is worth a good read. The consequences of not making the effort to look after your gums should (hopefully) shock you!