Oral Hygiene and your Overall Health

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January 2020

Research has shown an association between periodontal (gum) disease and other chronic inflammatory ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Understanding the direct correlation between these diseases is more important than ever.

Gum disease is chronic inflammation that affects the gum tissues and the surrounding bone of the teeth. Studies show that gum disease is more prevalent than once thought and may exist in approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

Over the next few months, I will be discussing gum disease and its affects on heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. If you have any questions regarding your oral health, please don’t hesitate to call our office or discuss at your next dental visit.

The effects of oral health on heart disease

More than 60 million people have heart disease, a term used to describe a range of cardiovascular conditions. Of the more than 700,000 men and women who have heart attacks each year, one-in-four dies, making it the leading cause of death worldwide. 

Research has shown that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease. While studies have not proven gum disease causes heart disease, researchers believe that the inflammation brought on by gum disease may be responsible for the association.

Hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and even death. Arterial plaque contains fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances and is different from the sticky plaque on teeth, which is made up of bacteria, acid and food debris. 

No one is sure how gum disease is related to heart disease but there are a couple of theories. One theory is that bacteria from the oral cavity are carried in the bloodstream and sticks to the plaques in the arteries, increasing the potential for blockage. Another theory is that oral bacteria travel throughout the body causing blood cells to swell, narrowing the artery and increasing the risk of clots. Inflammation caused by conditions such as periodontal disease, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis may compound the problem.

Losing weight, eating healthier and exercising — along with better brushing and flossing habits and regular visits to the dentist — may be the key to improved overall health. 

February is American Heart Month and is a great time to review the five major symptoms of a heart attack.

• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back

• Feeling weak, light headed, faint or nauseous

• Pain or discomfort in the chest

• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, arms or shoulder

• Shortness of breath

 

Kendra Haynes Fox RDH, BS

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