Detect Heart Disease at the Dentist
Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart
A visit to the dentist may be more beneficial than we think. Instead of the standard teeth cleaning, we could be in store for something a bit more serious, as our dental health is now thought to be indicative of our heart health. More specifically, there is now a suspected link between gum disease and heart attack/stroke. The growing body of research suggests that infection from the oral cavity may increase the risk and complications for a number of serious diseases and conditions, and heart disease and stroke are among those.
Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Health
The link between the periodontal health and CVD comes down to chronic inflammation, which is seen by researchers as a precursor to atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls). This “thickening” or inflammation, along with fat deposits, often results from damage to the artery wall – damage that comes from infections of various sources. One of those is gum disease.
Researchers believe that bacteria from gum disease could be involved with this damage to the artery wall.
Gum Disease: A Gateway to Heart Disease
Put simply, the bacteria from gum infection can cause an inflammatory tissue response, allowing it to enter the bloodstream from gum pockets. In other words, when the gums bleed, bacteria is easily able to enter the bloodstream. When the bacteria is able to move through blood vessels to other parts of the body, such as the heart, the artery becomes less elastic, and the inside of the artery becomes smaller.
From there, small blood clots are able to form, causing the arteries to be clogged and blood flow to be cut off. Thus, heart attack or stroke takes place.
Not only can periodontal disease cause heart conditions, but it can also intensify existing ones. That’s why it’s important for patients at risk for (or who have) other conditions may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Be in open communication with your periodontist and cardiovascular doctor.
Signs of Gum Disease
Although research is still under investigation for a solid cause-and-effect between gum disease and heart disease, it remains important to watch for signs of oral infection as another way of being cautious. Keep these signs of gum disease in mind as you stay conscious of your overall health.
- Red or swollen gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
To check these symptoms and what they could mean, visit your dentist, who will likely take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss. They will also refer you to a periodontist – an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. The key here is to just be aware of your body, how you’re feeling, and any changes in your regular health. Catching these diseases early on will be best for preventing further damage and lowering risk of worse conditions.