Your Vancouver, WA dentist at Smile Designs Vancouver has always tried to teach patients that daily brushing and flossing rank as essential habits for anyone looking to avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
But while most of our patients probably understand why they need to brush in order to protect the health of their smiles, they might not know that brushing and flossing could also help to reduce their risk of having a heart attack.
The theory linking oral health with heart health has existed for over a century. However, it’s only been in the last few decades that health professionals have started taking this idea seriously enough to start recommending oral hygiene as a means for lowering the risk of heart disease.
The Dangers of Gum Disease
The earliest stage of gum disease, referred to as gingivitis, causes gum tissue to become red, swollen, tender, and to bleed easily after brushing or flossing. Gingivitis develops when you let dental plaque buildup in the space between your teeth and gums.
When gingivitis goes untreated by your Vancouver, WA dentist, it can develop into the far more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis. At this stage, bacteria collect in “pockets” that form between the gum line and the base of a patient’s teeth. This causes additional inflammation that further weakens the structures that connect our teeth to our gums. In time, as these connections become less table, teeth can become loose and even fall out.
One of the main problems with gum disease is that you might not even know you’ve developed a problem until the disease has progressed into a later stage. Unlike most health problems, gum disease doesn’t present many symptoms until further along in its development. By the time you do notice your oral health isn’t feeling quite right, you’ve developed abscesses or your teeth start to feel loose.
So What Does Gum Health Have to do With Heart Health?
There are significant risk factors that overlap between gum disease and heart disease, including lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, diet, and a smoking habit.
But there also exists an association between the two diseases. That is to say, if you have one you’re more likely to also have the other. In fact, individuals who suffer from gum disease have twice the risk of developing heart disease when compared to those who don’t have gum disease.
While this association does exist, researchers don’t yet fully understand whether that connection is a causal link, meaning that one disease actually causes the other to develop. However, evidence does exist that makes a causal link plausible.
First, when your gum become inflamed researchers believe that the inflammatory molecules that cause the swelling and redness to develop can actually travel to other parts of the body. Once relocated, they can cause inflammation to develop in the arteries, playing a role in the further development of fatty deposits in artery walls that lead to a heart attack.
The second causal link is that the harmful oral bacteria that causes gum disease can enter the bloodstream through the cracks that develop in gum tissue as a result of periodontitis. That same type of oral bacteria is believed to promote fatty plaques that can travel to the arteries around the heart and help cause the development of heart disease.
So while researchers have yet to conclusively prove a link between heart and gum health, the evidence that does exist suggests the need to brush and flossing regularly. Start your New Year off right by making a pledge to enjoy better oral and overall health. Your Vancouver, WA dentist at Smile Designs Vancouver will be here to help.