Gum Disease and Heart Disease: Understanding the Connection

Jan 13, 2023

Gum Disease and Heart Disease: Understanding the Connection

February is American Heart Month, a time for raised awareness of all aspects of cardiovascular health. Not everyone realizes there’s a link between heart disease and periodontal disease, the oral health condition commonly called gum disease.

The team at Los Altos Family Smiles wants to remind you that February is American Heart Month, and one way you can help to protect your heart relies on maintaining excellent oral health. Though the plaque that coats your teeth and the plaque that lines your arteries are two totally different substances, both can jeopardize your health. And there’s a statistical relationship between gum disease, caused by plaque on your teeth, and heart disease, caused by plaque in your arteries. 

The burden of inflammation

Inflammation is a negative load on your body’s resources. Chronic inflammation contributes to health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Often, it’s hard to pinpoint the impact chronic inflammation has due to its lengthy presence, so a general goal of good health means eliminating as many forms of preventable inflammation as possible. 

The oral health connection

Gum disease is an inflammatory condition caused by bacterial infections driven by dental plaque, a by-product of food and drink residue mixed with saliva. Even with the best home care routine, enough hidden plaque escapes your brushing and flossing efforts that regular dental cleanings become necessary to clear away these deposits. 

Without these biannual cleanings, plaque builds and hardens into tartar below the gumline, forming pockets that prove to be an excellent home for bacterial growth. You know the conditions as gingivitis and periodontitis. Oral health is not just about tooth decay. Gum disease adds to your body’s inflammation load. 

While there’s not a direct causal link between gum disease and heart disease, reduced inflammation overall connects to a reduction in atherosclerosis, the heart and artery condition noted for the presence of arterial plaque, which can slow or block the flow of blood. These plaques can also break loose and contribute to strokes and heart attacks. 

Recognizing gum disease

The earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis, and, fortunately, it’s often reversible with improvements in your home care routine, with a little help from us at Los Altos Family Smiles. Plaque and tartar deposits remain minimal, though you may have symptoms like minor gum bleeding, redness, and tenderness. An aggressive scaling may be the only office procedure you need to restore a healthy mouth. 

When you have periodontitis, the term for full-blown gum disease, then you’ve reached a point where gum inflammation begins to threaten your general health. The bacterial infection in your mouth may spread to other parts of your body through the bloodstream. These infections can affect the valves in your heart. 

Signs of periodontitis include: 

  • Bad breath or bad tastes in your mouth
  • Bleeding, tender gums
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Receding gums
  • Sensitive or aching teeth
  • Changes to the way your teeth align during bites
  • Loose teeth

Biting and chewing may also be uncomfortable or painful. In advanced cases, the bone of your jaws may start to deteriorate. 

The easiest way to avoid gum problems that can contribute to heart disease is through regular wellness checks with us at Los Altos Family Smiles. Contact our office by phone or online today to schedule your next visit.