Our bodies are complex systems. Problems in one area often impact problems in other areas.
Research shows the health of your mouth may have consequences for your heart. Gum disease, in particular, has been linked to heart disease. Studies reveal people with periodontitis, severe gum disease, are at greater risk for heart disease than people with healthy gums. However, it’s too soon to tell if gum disease leads to heart disease.
While scientists work to fully understand the connection between gum disease and heart disease, they’re sure about one thing. Your oral health is a gateway to your overall health.
Here are some things to know about gum disease and heart disease to help keep your smile and body healthy:
Facts about gum disease
Gum disease is an infection of your gums that’s caused by chronic plaque buildup on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, bacteria-filled substance that accumulates around your teeth and under your gumline throughout the day. It’s kind of like your mouth’s version of toe jam. Brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings help remove plaque and prevent it from hardening into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dentist. Plaque and tartar are breeding grounds for the harmful bacteria that causes gum disease.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gum disease affects roughly half of American adults.
Risk factors for gum disease
The main cause of gum disease is plaque. However, there are many other factors that impact the health of your gums. They are:
• Age 65+
• Smoking or other tobacco use
• Poor nutrition
Other systemic illnesses, like heart disease, can increase your risk for gum disease.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are stages gum disease
Gingivitis is a mild, early stage of gum disease. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Gingivitis can be reversed when treated early. That’s why it’s essential to stay on top of preventive dental visits and cleanings. When gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease. It’s diagnosed when your gums start to pull away from your teeth. It causes bad breath and can lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis is treated with special periodontal maintenance visits. Most of our plans cover four periodontal maintenance visits a year for people with periodontitis. These visits are covered at the same level as preventive services so you pay little to nothing out-of-pocket for them.
If you have periodontitis, it’s extremely important to stay on top of these visits. They help your dentist keep your condition under control and prevent tooth loss.
Gum disease prevention
Prevent gum disease with good oral health habits:
• Brush your teeth for 2 minutes, 2 times a day
• Floss every day
• Visit your dentist for regular check-ups
Talk to your dentist to learn more about your risks for gum disease. They’ll help ensure your healthy smile lasts a lifetime.
Facts about heart disease
Heart disease is used to describe any health condition that impacts the functioning of your heart or blood vessels. These conditions include narrowed or blocked arteries that lead to chest pain, heart attack and stroke.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, it’s the cause of 1 in 4 deaths in the US.
Risk factors for heart disease
There are similarities between the risk factors for gum disease and heart disease. These include age and smoking.
Other risk factors for heart disease are:
• High blood pressure (which can be stress-induced)
• High cholesterol
Lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet can also increase your risk for heart disease.
Heart disease prevention
Heart disease is preventable by simply taking care of your overall health.
• Stay active
• Eat healthy
• Quit using tobacco
Talk to your doctor to learn more about your risks for heart disease. They’ll help you develop a diet and exercise plan to keep your heart in top shape.