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The link between gum disease and heart health

Did you know, that there could be a connection between the health of your gums and the health of your heart? According to the Academy of General Dentistry, people who have chronic gum disease are at a higher risk for heart attack.

There are two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is gum inflammation, whereas periodontal disease is a serious gum disease. Gingivitis begins with bacterial growth in your mouth, and if not properly treated, can lead to tooth loss due to destruction of the tissue around your teeth. Gingivitis will come first, and if not properly treated, will develop into periodontal disease.

There are several things that can cause gum disease.

  • Illness: several disease including HIV and cancer can lower your body’s ability to fight bacteria.

  • Medications: certain medications can affect the health of your mouth by causing dry mouth or abnormal growths in the mouth

  • Poor Oral Hygiene Habits: neglecting to brush and floss your teeth daily can cause infections in the gums

  • Bad Habits: smoking can sometimes make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself, therefore making it harder for your mouth to heal itself from bacterial infections

  • Hormonal Changes: this includes hormonal fluctuations during menopause, pregnancy, puberty and monthly menstruation. Experiencing these can make gums more sensitive, allowing gingivitis to develop

How do you know if you have gum disease?

The symptoms you could experience with gum disease include:

  • Receding gums

  • Red, swollen or tender gums

  • Loose or shifting teeth

  • Persistent bad breath of bad taste in the mouth

  • Bleeding gums after brushing

How this affects your heart health

Because the mouth is referred to as “the pathway to the body,” its health is a way to judge a person’s overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with moderate or advanced gum disease are more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.

A recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association studied 657 people with known heart disease. It was noted that these people had higher blood levels of certain disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to atherosclerosis of the carotid artery in the neck that can lead to stroke. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries that develops when fats and other substances in your blood begin to stick to the sides of your arteries, leading to a stroke or a heart attack.

More than 90 percent of all systematic diseases—including heart disease—have oral symptoms. In some cases, dentists can help patients with a history of heart disease by examining them for infection or inflammation that could indicate heart problems.

What can you do to prevent gum disease and possible heart problems?

• Brush for 2-3 minutes twice per day, making sure to brush your teeth as well as your gums • Floss daily • Eat a healthy diet that provides essential nutrients • Avoid tobacco • Schedule regular dentist check-ups and cleanings

If you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, it’s important to see a dentist right away. At Shane McDowell DMD, we want to make sure that your mouth is healthy, so the rest of you can be healthy too! Call us to set up an appointment today, at 239-936-0597 or email us at

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