Gum Disease and Heart Disease: Can Gum Disease Cause Heart Problems?

As a dental practice, we focus on oral health: how to achieve and maintain it and what our role is in helping you get there. But, while we’re certainly specialists in your oral health, we also want to make sure that your oral health is part of your overall health.

We especially want to restore patients who require gum disease treatment to their optimal oral health. Why? Several studies recently have linked oral health to overall health and the studies suggest a connection between periodontal disease and heart disease.

connection between gum disease and heart disease

Connection Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease

So, what is the connection between gum disease and heart disease? Can gum disease cause heart problems? And if so, how can you prevent this from happening? Here are our answers.

What is the connection between gum disease and heart disease?

The main concern doctors have with both gum disease and heart disease is the issue of inflammation. With gum disease, the gum tissue becomes swollen and prone to infection. With heart disease, inflammation leads to the hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which makes it hard for blood to flow to your heart.

Each disease is different, but both stem from the same problem: inflammation. It is this connection between gum disease and heart disease that is leading doctors and scientists to dig deeper into this issue.

Can gum disease cause heart problems?

While gum disease may not carry quite the same weight as heart disease, it can still lead to rampant infection in the mouth which can create pockets of germy pus. These pockets are concerning for heart health because it allows bacteria and toxins to spread below the gumline. Gums are highly vascular (meaning they have lots of blood vessels) so bacteria and toxins below the gumline ultimately enter the bloodstream.

And this is where doctors and researchers have their main concern: bacteria and toxins in the bloodstream lead to inflammation. Inflammation is a main cause of damage to blood vessels, including blood vessels found in the heart.

In fact, researchers have found that the same bacteria that causes gum disease spreads to the heart. They have found the presence of this bacteria in patients with both heart and gum disease. Conversely, they found significantly less of this bacteria in the hearts of patients who didn’t have gum disease.

While there has not yet been research that shows a direct cause and effect between gum disease and a heart attack, there is enough evidence to show that gum disease and heart disease are connected.

How can I prevent gum disease and heart disease from happening?

It may not be possible to entirely prevent gum disease, depending on your family history and oral health habits. As many as 80% of our patients may experience a mild form of gum disease (like gingivitis) in their lifetime, which is typically treatable with regular brushing and flossing, rinsing with a mouthwash formulated for gingivitis and regular dental checkups. If this mild form of gum disease is left unchecked, however, it could develop into periodontitis, so early detection and treatment is key.

We don’t claim to be experts in heart health so we encourage you to talk to your doctor if you think you’re at risk for heart disease. If you already have heart disease and gum disease, you may need to take an antibiotic before your deep cleaning appointments to prevent further inflammation and infection.

Finally, while we are still awaiting further studies to show the connection between gum disease and heart disease, we encourage you to pursue your optimal oral health. We may not have the definitive science to say “yes! Gum disease and heart disease have a direct cause and effect relationship!” but we do know that overall oral health is beneficial to our patients. Don’t neglect your regular checkups and keep up with your oral hygiene at home!

Remember: The above information should be used as general guidelines and should not be substituted for medical advice. If you have questions about gum disease and heart disease, you should contact our skilled dentists right away for a dental exam. 

Professional Dentistry and Gum Disease Treatment in Columbus Ohio

We are proud to offer professional dentistry, teeth cleanings and gum disease treatment to patients and new patients in Central Ohio. Contact us today to schedule a cleaning!