Understanding the Link Between Your Mouth and Body
Our smiles are often thought of as one of the first physical attributes noticed on a daily basis. An indicator of confidence and friendliness, a clean, well-aligned smile can contribute to a positive first impression as well as affect our attitude in approaching new situations. While we can all agree that a beaming smile is important from a cosmetic standpoint, it is even more important to understand the connection between a healthy smile and your greater health. To do this, we can think of your mouth as a window into the health of your body. When that window shows signs of trouble or decay, more internal parts of the body, including your heart, may also be affected.
Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease, is an infection or inflammation that affects the tissues and bone support of your teeth. This typically begins with a build-up of bacteria and plaque. When plaque is left to harden, it becomes dental calculus, or tartar, which bonds to the tooth’s enamel and makes cleaning your teeth and gums more difficult. Over time, your gums begin to recede and pockets of bacteria collect, leading to periodontitis. When left untreated, the tissues and bones may become damaged, eventually causing bone loss or requiring tooth removal.
While these complications are certainly serious enough, research suggests a link between individuals with gum disease and other chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Though it is still not clear which chronic disease drives the other, evidence indicates that gum disease may raise the severity of other underlying conditions, including heart disease. Likewise, when your body is tasked with working hard to manage these conditions, its ability to fight infections, including those associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease, may be compromised.
How could gum disease reach the heart? When a patient is diagnosed with periodontitis, widespread inflammation and bacteria are present in the mouth. Both inflammation and bacteria can spread and quickly move to the cardiovascular system. For patients with heart disease or atherosclerosis, increased inflammation in the body can expand to the area including the heart. Similarly, bacteria that collects in the mouth can move to the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. Early recognition and treatment of inflammation, bacterial buildup, and tartar on or around your gums are essential in protecting the health of your mouth and other major bodily systems.
Maintaining Your Oral and Heart Health
Routine dental exams once every six months and thorough, proactive oral hygiene can provide your teeth and gums with the proper attention to optimize health. Along with brushing and flossing twice daily, keeping an eye out for any of the following symptoms can help in the prevention and early detection of gum concerns.
- Red, swollen gums
- Bleeding when brushing, flossing, or eating
- Separating teeth
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath, even after brushing and flossing
Visit our Preventative Dentistry page for more information.
Contact our Champions Dental team today to schedule your dental exam and professional cleaning.