You've probably heard that old song about the leg bone being connected to the knee bone; it's easy to see how the human skeleton links together. But the concept of anatomical parts being interconnected actually goes further than you might think. Problems in almost any part of the body can have profound effects in other areas. Your gums offer a perfect example.
Believe it or not, medical research has established a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD). They appear to be linked by inflammation, a protective response to infection. Inflammation can be characterized by a redness and swelling of the body's tissues that you can see. Or its effects can be less obvious.
Gum disease is an infection caused by bacteria, which build up in the mouth in the absence of regular or effective brushing and flossing. When left undisturbed, the bacterial biofilms (dental plaque) change over time so that a small set of highly pathogenic (“patho” – disease; “genic” – causing) organisms emerge that cause periodontitis (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth; “itis” – inflammation).
Periodontitis can cause not just a localized inflammation of the gum tissue, but also a systemic (whole-body) inflammation. And this chronic, low-grade inflammation throughout the body appears to increase the risk of heart disease considerably. The good news is that there is a lot we can do about gum disease. And when we reduce the inflammation it causes, we can also reduce the risks for CVD and the heart attacks and strokes that can result.
The first step is a thorough, professional periodontal cleaning to remove the bacterial biofilm attached to the roots of the teeth. Sometimes a short course of antibiotics is prescribed to further fight the infection. Advanced periodontitis may require surgery so that we can reach all of the contaminated root surfaces for removal of the bacterial biofilm.
We will also review with you how you can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria through an effective daily oral hygiene routine. This is crucial to maintaining your oral health, which in turn affects your general health and overall well-being.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article, “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”