February is American Heart Month. You may be wondering what that has to do with oral health, but there’s actually an interesting correlation. Research has shown a link between periodontal disease and heart disease.

Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease

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While a cause for the link has not been definitively identified, studies indicate that periodontal disease has great potential to increase a person’s risk for heart disease. Many scientists have theorized that the inflammation resulting from periodontal disease is responsible for the association. Because of the relationship of the systemic diseases, a dentist may not only be able to assess oral health, but they may also be able to detect warning signs that the heart could be in jeopardy.

Research has established that the development of periodontal disease can worsen existing heart conditions. Scientists theorize that both diseases are caused by the same bacteria. The bacteria that are present in the infected gum tissue could break down the healthy barrier between the gums and connective tissues, resulting in inflammation. As the bacteria from the mouth enter a person’s bloodstream during the standard practices of chewing and brushing teeth, it can advance cardiovascular disease.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection. When oral bacteria travel to other parts of the body, it may trigger the same response. It can cause plaque to form in the arteries accompanied by inflammation. Studies have shown that oral bacteria are present in the fatty deposits of people who are suffering from atherosclerosis. The fatty deposits obstruct arteries. They can also break loose and completely block arteries, leading to a stroke or a heart attack.

Because of the association between periodontal and heart disease, it is of utmost importance that patients with periodontal disease seek immediate treatment. Warning signs for periodontal disease include red and swollen gums, tender and receding gums, bleeding gums, spaces between the teeth that cause pockets to form, bad breath, and loose teeth. Patients who suspect periodontal disease must receive a clear diagnosis. A dental hygiene team can actively look for the disease in the course of an exam.

Symptoms of periodontal disease may be hard for the untrained eye to detect, so it’s imperative to visit the dentist regularly. If you receive a diagnosis, visit a periodontist in Kaysville to discuss treatment options.