SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI — Everything from stress levels and smoking to diet and exercise impact your heart health, but another factor of life that affects your heart you might not hear mentioned as often is your mouth.
“That’s right,” says Dr. Marc Barnett, a Rogersville MO dentist since 1984. “There is a link between your oral health and your heart health. Research has shown that keeping your mouth healthy can help reduce your risk of problems with cardiovascular disease.”
February is American Heart Month, so we are using the opportunity to educate patients about oral health and how it impacts the entire body. We are big believers in prevention first, and proper dental hygiene is one way to prevent serious and costly health problems. The biggest connection between oral health and heart health is periodontal or gum disease.
“The link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease has changed as more research is compiled,” says Dr. Kelly Barnett, an award-winning family and Springfield Missouri dental bridge
doctor. “It used to have a casual relationship but as the evidence mounts, periodontal disease is looking more like an actual risk factor.”
People with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. The pervasive disease may also exacerbate existing heart conditions.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys bone and gum tissues supporting the teeth. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults older than 35, and millions of people don’t even know they have this serious infection, according to the AAP.
“Periodontitis is known as a silent disease because so many patients have symptoms but don’t realize it,” says Dr. Tracy Davis, who has almost a decade of experience at the Ozark family dentistry practice. “The most noticeable symptoms like shifting teeth or tooth loss don’t present until advanced stages of the disease, so it is crucial that you see a dentist and start treatment as soon as you notice a problem.”
Signs And Symptoms Of Gum Disease
Warning signs of periodontal disease include red, swollen or tender gums, pain in your mouth, bleeding during routine preventive dental implants
, receding gums, loose or separating teeth, mouth sores, pus between teeth and gums, dental lumineers
, bad breath and a change in the bite of natural teeth or fit of partial dentures.
“Sometimes people assume that because their teeth and gums don’t hurt that their mouth is healthy,” says Dr. Nick Matthews, who is a porcelain veneers
expert provider. “That isn’t always true. Periodontal disease can be wreaking havoc on oral and overall health without causing pain.”
People of all ages can get periodontal disease, including small children. The main cause of the disease is plaque, but other factors affect the health of your gums, such as age, tobacco use, genetics, stress, medications, poor nutrition, obesity, clenching or grinding teeth and other systemic diseases.
Preventing Gum Disease
The good news about periodontal disease is that it can be largely prevented by following the American Dental Association guidelines for dental care. Those include brushing twice a day, flossing or using an interdental cleaner once a day and getting professional cleanings and examinations twice a year. Watching for the warning signs of periodontal disease can help you nip problems in the bud. Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding food and beverages with added sugars are also good preventative measures.
“Being proactive and treating problems early can help you keep your mouth healthy and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems,” says Dr. Davis. “We care about our patients’ health, not just their dental problems. We want to help them move in the direction of better health in every sense of the word.”