Eating healthy and exercising are well-known ways to stay healthy. On top of that, it’s common knowledge that smoking is bad, and sugar causes cavities in teeth. However, many people don’t know that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can be identified in many people with coronary artery disease. 

The bacteria that lead to the breakdown of the gums, teeth, and the bone that holds the teeth in place can also be responsible for the narrowing and hardening of the arteries of the heart. The gums are very vascular, meaning they are full of blood vessels. 

Your mouth is full of bacteria. If you disrupt the gum layer even a small bit, bacteria can enter your bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is one of the major factors that cause damage to blood vessels, including those found in the heart.

Many might think that the mouth and heart don’t have much in common, but increasing evidence suggests they may be more closely linked than once thought. Researchers suspect that the certain bacteria present in patients with gum disease can travel throughout the body, triggering inflammation in the heart’s vessels and infection of the heart valves.

Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. While a solid cause and effect relationship has not yet been definitively proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease most likely increases the risk of heart disease. Scientists believe that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for that association. In addition, periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.

The good news is that preventing and treating mild gum disease (gingivitis) is very straight forward. Regardless of the condition of your heart, it is important to have regular dental cleanings as they are an important part of the overall preventive care strategy. 

If you have not been to a dentist in a while, do a quick self exam in front of a mirror. While many of the symptoms don’t appear early on, there are several noticeable warning signs:

• Red, swollen, or tender gums

• Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard foods

• Receding gums

• Loose and/or separating teeth

• Persistent bad breath

If you notice any of these symptoms, go see a dentist. Be sure and discuss with him/her any family history of heart disease.

Dr. Daniel Bird is the owner of Crosstown Dental Group (CDG). He’s passionate about dentistry, loves people, and loves to challenge the common perception of how dentistry should be practiced. With the most current technology and training, Dr. Bird provides world-class dentistry in an amazing facility in Midtown as well as their new location at Highland Row. For more info, visit Visit their locations at 1350 Concourse Avenue, Suite 446 and 431 S. Highland Street, Suite 115.