Is heart disease related to gum disease?

Studies have shown that the two can be related although the mechanism is poorly understood.  Periodontal disease (sore, bleeding gums, teeth that are mobile) forms gum pockets around teeth that fill with bacteria.  When we think of a “pocket” you want to be able to retrieve what’s at the bottom with very little effort, similar to reaching for something in a shirt pocket.  But, the deeper the pockets become, the more difficult it is to reach to the base of that pocket to clear or retrieve what lies at the bottom.  So, as periodontal pockets get deeper it becomes much harder to clear the bacteria that lie at the bottom with normal brushing and flossing.  For most, periodontal disease does not hurt so this process can go on undetected for many without much discomfort.  Herein lies the problem, this bacteria has ready access to the blood stream which it can enter and make its way to the heart attaching to fatty deposits that line heart blood vessels.  Also, if you have a history of endocarditis, heart valve defects or weakness from rheumatic fever this bacteria can potentially make these issues worse.   What can be done?

Regular examinations at your primary care physician or cardiologist to be informed of your heart health.  If you have a family history of heart disease it is very important that you seek regular care from your physician.  Also, regular dental check ups to determine if any periodontal disease is present and in what severity.  A proper diagnosis at your dentist will help to determine what type of treatment is necessary to mitigate and hopefully eliminate the disease.   Treatment includes pocket reduction by clearing away the bacterial colonies that exist below the gum line and reducing the inflammation present with this disease.  Specialized “in between” brushes may be dispensed to aid getting between teeth and below the gum tissue as well as a solid regimen that can be followed daily.  Proper care, treatment and daily good oral hygiene practices will help to keep you healthy and your mouth in optimal condition.

If your concerned about any of these issues make sure you contact your physician and a dental professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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