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The Link Between Gum Health and Heart Health

Stethoscope

When people have a cardiovascular condition, they may not initially think that it would affect their oral health. Do a little research online, and you’ll see that gum disease has been linked to several conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

If your gums are red or inflamed and you have a heart condition, you’ll want to get this issue under control. Read on to learn more about how gum disease is linked to heart health and how to treat gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Does Gum Disease Cause or Worsen Heart Problems?

Although the jury is still out on whether gum disease causes heart problems, researchers have observed some connection between the two conditions. According to Harvard Medical School, patients with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.

While inflammation is a normal response when the body is under attack, people with gum disease have chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can contribute to many health problems because when inflammatory cells stay too long in blood vessels, they can help to build up dangerous plaque. When plaque builds up, arteries can thicken.

Some researchers have also speculated that the bacteria that causes gingivitis and periodontitis can travel to other areas in the body. In fact, this theory is supported since researchers have found remnants of oral bacteria in atherosclerotic blood vessels.

Whatever the link or the cause, it’s important to get your gum disease under control so that it doesn’t interfere with predispositions to heart issues or any current heart conditions.

How Can You Take Care of Gingivitis and Gum Disease?

To care for your gums, establish a correct regimen of brushing and flossing. When you brush, be sure to use a soft-bristled brush and brush gently so that you don’t wear down gum tissue.

Besides at home care, stay on top of regular dental cleanings. During these check-ups, your dentist can measure gum pockets with a periodontal probe. Gum pockets can fill up with bacteria, so periodontal probe measurements are good indicators of how bad a person’s gingivitis or gum disease is.

If you only have mild gingivitis, your dentist may use an ultrasonic scaler to really loosen up tartar around the gumline. If you have deeper gum pockets, your dentist may recommend periodontal cleaning, like scaling and root planing. During scaling and root planing, your dentist or a hygienist will remove bacterial deposits not only from your teeth but also from tooth root surfaces below the gumline.

This deep cleaning can help prevent the spread of bacteria to other areas of the body, like around your heart. This periodontal cleaning also helps to shrink gum pockets so that your gum tissue can reattach itself more firmly to support your teeth.

What Do You Need to Do to Prepare for a Periodontal Cleaning?

If you have a heart disease, let your dentist know about the condition and what medications you may be taking for it. During periodontal cleaning, your dentist will use a local anesthetic so that you aren’t uncomfortable.

However, some local anesthetics contain epinephrine, which can cause increases in both your heart rate and blood pressure. Again, your dentist should know about your heart conditions and medications so that they can decide whether certain local anesthetics are safe for your needs.

Besides updating your health history, ask your dentist whether you need to take an antibiotic before or after your periodontal cleaning. While a small number of patients may need to take preventative antibiotics, the American Heart Association has said that people with a high risk of infective endocarditis may need to take them.

Reach out to Dr. Jerry F. Maymi & Associates today for more information about periodontal cleanings and how your oral health is linked to your heart health.