How Dental Health, Oral Health, and Cardiac Health are all Connected
Most people are surprised when they find out that how well they take care of their teeth and mouth affects other parts of their body. Infections in the mouth can cause further infection in the jaw, esophagus, and stomach. Unchecked problems in the gums can lead to flu-like symptoms. There are also are various oral cancers which can spread to other parts of the body.
Oral health, the state of your teeth, gums, and mouth is a window into your health as a whole. Keeping your mouth healthy is incredibly important for the health of your body—in particular, your heart.
Learn more about how your oral health reflects your overall well-being here.
Heart Disease Is Important
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Over 500,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, resulting in over 20% of all deaths in the U.S. Fortunately, heart disease is often preventable with lifestyle changes. These changes include proper diet, exercise, and abstaining from smoking. One often-overlooked way to help prevent heart disease is to ensure you have good oral health.
Before making any self-diagnoses or choices about your body, have a conversation with your doctor. If you want to make any important decisions about your body, consult a professional.
In What Ways Can Your Oral Health Affect Your Heart?
This disease is caused by bleeding gums. Bad oral hygiene can lead to infection in the gums. When the infection gets bad enough, the gums bleed. Bleeding gums then allow bacteria from the mouth into the blood stream. If the bacteria from the infected gums gets to your heart (via the bloodstream), it can cause endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of the heart means your valves don’t work properly. And if your valves can’t work properly, you are at increased risk of heart attack.
This disease can occur when you have an untreated cavity. Untreated cavities often cause periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is when your gums pull back from your teeth. In the area created by this, bacteria starts to grow. From this gap, bacteria can get into your bloodstream and to your heart’s arteries. If the bacteria hardens in the arteries, it can cause atherosclerosis. This hardening restricts blood flow to the heart. When there is less blood flow to and from the heart, it is much easier for the body to succumb to heart disease.
Atherosclerosis is dangerous for many reasons besides just the threat to the heart. Hardened bacteria in your arteries can cause a stoppage anywhere. This could lead to decreased blood flow to the brain, various muscles, and organs. Without proper blood flow, any of those body parts would be more susceptible to disease and loss of function.
For an in-depth research paper on how coronary disease and oral disease are related, look here.
Other Major Risks from Poor Oral Hygiene
Pregnancy Complications and Premature Births
Periodontitis has been linked to premature births and low birth weight.
The build-up of bacteria in your mouth can threaten your lungs. When you inhale, the bacteria can be sucked into your lungs, causing an infection. Pneumonia is a risk, as are other diseases of the lungs caused by bacterial infection.
Atherosclerosis can cause lack of blood flow to the brain. If the bacterial build-up is serious enough, people can have strokes.
What puts you at risk?
Chronic Gum Disease
Advanced gingivitis or periodontal disease puts you at a greater risk for heart damage. If you are not sure, look for the following signs:
- Gums that are red, swollen, or sore
- Gums that are bleeding
- Pus, severe decay, or other signs of infection around the teeth
- Your gums seem to be pulling away from your teeth; more area of the tooth or teeth is exposed.
- Frequent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Teeth that feel loose
Tobacco seriously increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. It also weakens the heart and lungs, making them more susceptible to infection.
Fortunately, prevention is fairly easy if you follow a few steps.
- Brush and floss regularly (brush 2-3 times a day, floss 1 time per day).
- Get a check-up at the dentist’s office every 6 months.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or if bristles are worn.
- Avoid using tobacco.
- Eat a healthy diet, limit foods with high sugar content.
Visit a Dentist
If you are worried about your oral health and want to ensure the best, then see a dentist. In the Fort Worth area, look no further than Dr. Ku, our award-winning favorite Fort Worth, TX dentist.