Your body’s organ systems are interlinked — what happens in one system may affect another. An example of this is the interrelationship between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Medicine has discovered a common link between these two different conditions — inflammation. A result of the body’s defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is damaging to both your mouth and your heart. Inflammation can destroy the gum’s soft tissue and underlying bone and lead to tooth loss. In the cardiovascular system, inflammation can begin and accelerate the buildup of plaque within arterial blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This inhibits the flow of oxygenated blood to both the heart and brain, which sets the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
Gum disease begins with poor oral hygiene. When brushing and flossing aren’t performed on a regular basis, or not performed adequately, it allows a thin layer of bacterial plaque called biofilm to build up on the teeth. The bacteria cause infection in the soft tissues of the gum that triggers the chronic inflammation. Because it’s often unaccompanied by other signs of infection like fever, a patient may not even be aware of it. There’s evidence now that inflammation caused by moderate to severe gum disease can contribute to a similar response in blood vessels.
We can treat the gum disease and reduce or eliminate the inflammation. This first requires the removal of all plaque and calculus (harder deposits) on the teeth, down to the root level. It may require surgery to access these areas and to help regenerate some of the lost tissue and bone that support the teeth. It’s also important to institute proper oral hygiene — effective daily brushing and flossing, semi-annual office cleanings and checkups.
In a similar way, you should address signs of inflammation in your cardiovascular system, including blood pressure management and the control of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Because both gum disease and CVD share many of the same risk factors, you can positively impact both your oral and general health by eating more nutritional foods, engaging in regular exercise and quitting tobacco products.
Treating any symptom of inflammation is important to improving your total health. By bringing gum disease and its accompanying inflammation under control, you may in turn help your heart and blood vessels.
If you would like more information on the relationship between heart and gum diseases, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”