Did you know that your oral hygiene doesn’t just impact your mouth, but also your heart health?
To better understand the correlation between periodontal disease and coronary artery disease, and possibly strokes, it helps to better understand how exactly gum disease works.
Here’s a primer: Gum disease is a bacterial infection that causes the loss of bone around teeth, explains Jay Wylam, DMD, with Kaiser Permanente Northwest Dental. It infects the tissue around the teeth, as well as the bone.
“We understand through science there’s a link between our oral health and the health of our entire body,” he says. “The two can’t simply be separated.”
This gives Wylam the opportunity to talk to his patients about the correlation between gum and heart disease.
“The bacteria and the byproducts from the bacteria that are inflammatory in nature have free access to the arteries and the veins and just pass into our bloodstream,” he explains.
This can cause damage to the very delicate lining of the arteries and the blood vessels within the heart, he says.
Gum disease is very common, Wylam says. About 70 percent of Americans past the age of 65 have gum disease. In advanced stages, gum disease can cause tooth loss, Wylam explains.
Prime factors that contribute to gum disease are inadequate daily oral hygiene and inconsistent dental care, including not coming in for regular cleanings. Other factors that contribute to gum disease include smoking, diabetes, stress, and family history of gum disease.
Signs of gum disease can be subtle, and might not cause much pain or discomfort.
In the early stages, you may notice some blood in your saliva after brushing or flossing. As it advances, you might look in the mirror and notice gums are red and swollen.
As the disease progresses, however, the teeth can actually start to feel loose because of bone loss, Wylam explains.
The best way to prevent gum disease is by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing on a daily basis, visiting your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings and not using tobacco products.