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Get to the Heart of Oral Health

Did you know that research shows a link between gum disease and heart disease and stroke? It’s true. Evidence is mounting that people with periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, gum disease may also worsen existing heart conditions.

The inflammation caused by gum disease may contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits inside heart arteries.

Although gum disease is not an independent risk factor for heart disease or stroke, there are consistent findings showing an association. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, research findings are inconclusive to link periodontal disease to other health problems beyond the mouth. 

What can you do?

First, be aware of the following possible warning signs of gum disease:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums

  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing

  • Gums that pull away from the teeth

  • Loose or separating teeth

  • Persistent bad breath

Healthy teeth and gums could help decrease your risk for heart disease and stroke. Although you can’t guarantee that you’ll never have a heart attack, you may be able to reduce your risk with daily brushing and flossing.

Most important, visit your dentist for an exam and a cleaning twice a year, or as often as your dentist recommends, because sometimes gum disease is invisible. If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar. Even if you think you’re doing a great job flossing, plaque can still remain in your mouth. Only a dental professional can remove the tartar and plaque that you may miss.

Taking extra care

For those with heart disease, the American Heart Association has some recommendations. First, establish and maintain a healthy mouth. Practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. Second, make sure your dentist knows that you have a heart problem. Ask your provider whether you need a bacterial endocarditis wallet card. Third, carefully follow your health care provider’s and dentist’s instructions when they prescribe special medications such as antibiotics.

The good news is that gum disease is preventable. And if you have gum disease, it can be treated.