Periodontal Disease and Heart Health - The Bacteria Connection
Your health is one of your most valuable assets, and patients are becoming very focused on their complete health versus just symptomatic problems. Dentistry is now focusing on patients’ overall health, not just their teeth and gums. Many conditions and/or medications affect your oral health and your oral health can affect other physical systems.
How can dental problems affect my health?
Even healthy mouths contain large levels of bacteria, but if removed by brushing or professional cleanings on a regular basis, these bacteria will only begin to affect our overall heath when it is given access to your bloodstream. Periodontal disease begins when the bacteria are not removed on a regular basis and gums begin to pull away from the teeth. Bacteria then collects in these pockets, causing infection. The infection causes bleeding, which provides an excellent conduit for the bacteria to enter the blood stream. It can also enter the blood stream through abscessed teeth, cuts and sores in the mouth.
Can my oral health cause heart disease?
Current studies suggest that there may be a link between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease. In fact, research suggests that gum disease may be a more serious risk factor for heart disease than hypertension, smoking, cholesterol, gender and age, and people who have gum disease seem to be at a higher risk for heart attacks.
This risk begins when bacteria reaches the arteries, which causes irritation (as it does in the mouth). The irritation can cause arterial plaque, which can cause the hardening of the arteries and block blood-flow. Compromised blood-flow to your heart can cause a heart attack. Also, arterial plaque can come loose and travel to other parts of the body. If blockage occurs in the brain, it can cause a stroke.
What should I do?
Keep your mouth healthy! The main cause for periodontal disease and tooth decay is plaque buildup. Proper homecare, which includes daily brushing, flossing and using an antibacterial rinse such as Listerine, and at least two dental visits per year are recommended for everyone. In our office we may also have you rinse with an antibacterial rinse before and after invasive dental treatment.
How will I know if I have a problem?
Tooth decay and periodontal disease are often painless until in the late stages when your risk for other health problems is greatly increased. Your dentist and hygienist have the best chance of catching the problem in its early stages with special instruments and x-rays. However, do be aware of any swelling or bleeding in your mouth. These are sure signs of infection, which can enable the bacteria to enter the blood stream.