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Your Dentist Can Prevent a Heart Attack; heart health

Maintaining a healthy mouth prevents cavities and painful trips to the dentist – and it may also have a strong correlation with your overall health. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, endocarditis, strokes, high-risk pregnancies, sleep disturbances and behavioral issues in children may be linked to oral health.

A study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that people with gum disease are 40 percent more likely to suffer from another chronic health condition in addition to gum disease.

Another study by the American Academy of Periodontology shows that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease or heart disease.

Of course, one reason may be those who fail to maintain their oral health do not take care of the rest of their body either. However, new research shows inflammation and bacteria is a common link between oral health and other serious diseases.

Thomas Boyden, Jr., MD, the medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services in Grand Rapids, MI, explains this connection:

“Your gums are very vascular, meaning they’re full of blood vessels. And, your mouth is full of bacteria. If you disrupt the gum layer even a little bit, you’re going to get bacteria in your bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is one of the main things that cause damage to blood vessels, including those of the heart.”

Research shows the most common strains of bacteria found in dental plaque may cause blood clots. This happens when sticky bacteria enter the blood stream through gums and clump together on the walls of blood vessels. Just like cholesterol, these clots block blood circulation through the body causing an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure can force these clots to dislodge from the walls and escape into the heart or the brain. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

All recent studies show the association between heart disease and gum disease is at least as strong as the linkage of heart disease to cholesterol, body weight or smoking.

Other studies have found that in diabetes, an oral infection can disrupt blood-sugar levels and make the disease more difficult to control. Pregnant women with gum disease were found to be at a higher risk for delivering preterm, low-birth weight babies.

Most diseases give us early warning signs but gum disease progresses silently, often without pain. It may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly. After the age of 35, three out of four people are affected to some degree.

Gum disease is an infection that destroys gum surrounding your teeth and the jawbone. Not only can it cause tooth loss – it can rob you of your funds and your health. Other serious health conditions are often related to gum disease.

Your dentist can help you better understand gum disease and how to prevent it. They can painlessly check and monitor the condition of your gums at each dental appointment. Any plague left behind from daily brushing and flossing can be removed. Regular dental visits will help minimize your chance of developing this scary infection.

Education on this topic also plays a part in prevention. It is recommended that dentists inform their patients with moderate to severe gum disease that they may have an increased risk for heart and blood vessel problems.

Dentists can help patients with a history of heart disease by examining them for any signs of oral pain, infection or inflammation. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, proper diagnosis and treatment of tooth and gum infections in some patients has led to a decrease in blood pressure medications and improved overall health.

Dental X-rays can often show signs of calcifications in carotid arteries, which are large blood vessels in your neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain. Your dentist may notice these early warning signs of heart disease on your dental X-rays and encourage you to seek early treatment for prevention.

Consistent daily habits make a huge impact on your overall oral health. Daily tooth brushing and flossing can prevent and even reverse the earliest signs of gum disease. Take care of your mouth and your body. See your dentist at least twice a year, brush twice a day, floss daily, smile often and lead a long, healthy life!