The link between gum disease and heart disease

December 29, 2015

Promote-a-healthier-heart-by-combating-gum-disease_2020_40100779_0_14121478_650.jpgDental health experts have long known that periodontitis - the last stage of gum disease - can take a toll on your overall well-being. The American Academy of Periodontology associated periodontal disease with diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory issues, cancer and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the world. In America alone, the AHA estimated that one person dies every 40 seconds due to heart-related conditions.

Because this link between periodontitis and heart disease is so pertinent to modern-day health, experts have continually investigated the correlation. Recently, experts uncovered more detailed information.

"One person dies every 40 seconds due to heart-related conditions."

Study highlights link between gum disease and heart disease
Researchers from Orebro University in Sweden unveiled the microbiology behind this deadly link in a study published in the journal Infection and Immunity. Study data indicated the bacterium that develops with periodontitis - Porphyromonas gingivalis - also contributes to cardiovascular diseases. Specifically, experts know that P. gingivalis is found in the artery plaque formed from the buildup of fats and cholesterol, and the bacterium causes the artery walls to harden at a quicker pace.

Scientists also discovered that this occurs through a chain-like reaction, as P. gingivalis releases an enzyme that alters the amount of proteins in muscle cells, which ultimately leads to increased inflammation. According to Medical News Today, inflammation promotes the hardening of arteries, otherwise known as atherosclerosis.

Why are hard arteries a problem? Not only does atherosclerosis decrease blood flow, but the condition can cause plaque to burst. When this happens, the blood becomes filled with cholesterol and fat, which can lead to the development of blood clots, according to the Mayo Clinic. These clots can further slow down blood flow or stop it altogether, depriving your body of necessary nutrients and oxygen.

Grilled chicken.
Lean protein, such as chicken, can help your smile and your heart.

Protect your mouth, protect your heart
The National Institutes of Health explained that once arteries have hardened, you can't reverse the condition. As such, prevention is key to combating atherosclerosis and the associated cardiovascular issues, and the first step is to take care of your smile.

Bacteria growing between gums and the teeth cause periodontitis. The best way to prevent gum disease is to practice proper daily oral hygiene and remove the bacteria-filled plaque. Dental experts recommended brushing twice each day for two minutes at a time. Flossing once per day will help remove plaque from between the teeth, where your toothbrush can't reach.

Since periodontitis is the last phase of gum disease, you can prevent it from happening if you catch the symptoms early enough, such as during the gingivitis stage. Regularly visit your dentist with the help of a dental discount card, as he or she can detect signs of gum disease early on and recommend appropriate treatment.

Eating well will also help combat both heart disease and oral health issues. For instance, doctors typically recommended patients eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk for heart disease, and those items can also benefit your dental health. According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, fruits and veggies are packed with vitamin C, iron and calcium, which may help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, heart-healthy diets call for an increase in whole grains and lean protein, both of which better your smile, the American Dental Association noted.

Your oral care plays a significant role in your overall health, so those few minutes spent each day dedicated to cleaning your teeth may benefit your whole body.

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