Understanding the Connection Between Gum & Heart Disease

Beaverton dental clinic

At our Beaverton dental office, our doctors want patients to better understand how important a healthy mouth is to enjoying a healthy body.  Decades’ worth of research has shown that individuals who develop tooth decay and gum disease have a significantly higher risk of developing a range of chronic illnesses from diabetes to dementia. One disease in particular that research has identified as having a close association with poor oral health is cardiovascular disease.

Does that mean a healthy mouth free from disease and decay means a healthier heart? Yes, according to researchers. Doctors have discussed the potential connection for over 20 years, and now studies have found enough evidence to strongly point to a link. That’s why at our Beaverton dental office, our doctors stress the importance of a healthy mouth to all of our patients.

Understanding the Connection

How does what goes on in the mouth affect the health of your heart? It all relates to one thing: inflammation. Researchers understand that it leads to a hardening of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. That condition makes it harder for the body to pump blood to your heart. Decreased blood flow increases your risk for stroke and heart attack.

Gum disease also causes inflammation to develop in the mouth. Swollen and sore gums are the primary symptom of gum disease. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, causes gum tissue to become inflamed, tender, and bleed. In the more advanced form, known as periodontal disease, inflammation causes gum tissue to deteriorate, increasing your risk for various oral health problems, including tooth loss.

So, what links the two types of inflammation?

Researchers believe that it all starts with gum disease. When gum tissue becomes inflamed, it causes tiny tears to develop, which is why your gums bleed. Oral bacteria enter the bloodstream through these small tears, where it then begins to move throughout the body. When oral bacteria lodges in the heart, it causes inflammation to develop in the arteries, which leads to the development of atherosclerosis.

Oral bacteria can also cause inflammation to develop in other parts of the body. While the evidence is not as conclusive, studies have found oral bacteria in the brains of patients who’ve experienced a stroke and dementia. Research has also linked oral bacteria to joint inflammation and arthritis.

When viewed together, the research points to one clear fact: your oral health matters to your overall health.

Other Connections to Consider

While oral bacteria play a vital role in dental heart health, doctors say lifestyle choices also matter.

Individuals with severe gum disease tend to have other bad health habits. They often smoke, consume high sugar levels, and fail to brush and floss regularly.

At our Beaverton dental office, our doctors work to prevent the development of gum disease with regular preventative care. In addition to brushing and flossing daily, regular dental exams and cleanings allow our doctors to spot the signs of gum disease before it can develop into gingivitis or periodontal disease.

Don’t let your oral health impact the overall health of your body. Contact our office to schedule your next dental exam and cleaning at our Beaverton dental office.