Swollen, painful, and bleeding gums can indicate underlying gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. While gum disease is bad news for your teeth and oral health, it may also be harmful to overall health, especially your heart and cardiovascular system.
While a clear cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been established, various research studies have highlighted the link between poor periodontal health and an increased risk of heart disease. A new research study presented at the scientific session meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago showed that individuals who brushed their teeth less than two times a day had three times higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, heart failure.
Dental experts and scientists believe that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease is also responsible for causing cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart disease.
Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Problems; What’s the Connection?
Research has shown that the levels of harmful bacteria in the bloodstream are proportional to the severity of periodontal inflammation. Our gums are highly vascularized tissues, implying that they contain a lot of blood vessels. When you brush your teeth, the harmful bacteria inside the inflamed gums enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, including the heart.
A stroke is a condition where the blood flow to the brain is compromised, usually because of clot formation in the vessels that carry blood to the brain. When the harmful bacteria from infected gums enter the bloodstream, they initiate a cascade of inflammatory events in the arteries that result in the deposition of fat tissues and cholesterol, decreasing their diameter. Consequently, these blood vessels become thicker and result in reduced blood flow. Without treatment, these thickened and clogged vessels lessen the blood flow to the brain, leading to stroke.
- Coronary Heart Disease
When the disease-causing bacteria enter the coronary arteries, they can attach to the fatty cells adhering to the inner lumen of the vessels. Eventually, a clot can form and grow as more bacteria continue to enter the bloodstream and connect to the fat layer, ultimately resulting in decreased blood flow to the heart.
When this happens, the heart does not get enough oxygenated blood to perform an optimal function, leading to a heart attack. In addition to bacterial attachment, anti-inflammatory cells, such as white blood cells (WBCs) and the C-reactive protein (CRP), are released due to the underlying periodontal inflammation – have also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
The good news is that you can prevent all these problems by maintaining optimal oral hygiene. Make sure that you brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Also, make sure to floss daily and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings. You can considerably reduce the risk of developing periodontal problems and cardiovascular disease.
If you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to help you. Call us at 773-481-2200.
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