February 1 is near, marking the beginning of American Heart Month, which of course focuses on heart health. Pictured above, Pearl E. White found a loving pal at Madison's American Heart Walk, where First Choice Dental was a sponsor.
Dental Health is Connected to Heart Health
Did you know your dental health can be an indicator of other health issues within your body — including heart health? As we consider all aspects of heart health, it’s important to understand the role oral health can play.
Dr. David Gunderson, a Fitchburg dentist with First Choice Dental says, “Although there is no clear causal relationship between gum disease and heart disease, the two often go hand in hand. Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have gum disease, which is an infection of the tissue surrounding the gums, caused by a constant build-up of plaque on the teeth.” Dr. Gunderson adds, “Both gum disease and heart disease share many risk factors including smoking, diabetes, unhealthy diet and obesity.”
What’s the connection between heart & mouth?
Your mouth is one of the vascular parts of your body, requiring healthy blood flow to keep teeth and gum tissue healthy. Your mouth is also the area where you take in food, air and liquids into your body. And it’s where bacterial infections that aggravate inflammation can start.
Pictured at right: Dr. Nicole Gallman and hygienist Tasha talk about oral health and overall health with a patient.
Dr. Gundersen explains, “Gum disease has an inflammatory component. Gingivitis, the beginning stages of gum disease, occurs when gums become inflamed and bacteria overtake the mouth. Gum disease does not naturally get better on its own without treatment. Left untreated, gum disease can advance and get worse, even causing tooth loss.”
Since your mouth is connected to the rest of your body, infections that start there, don’t stay there. In other words the state of your dental health can contribute directly to the health of other parts of your body, including the heart. Left untreated, chronic bacterial infections in the mouth, like gum disease, can cause or worsen problems elsewhere in the body. Healthcare professionals agree that taking care of your oral health is a key step in taking care of your overall health.
Early Detection of Gum Disease is Key & Your Dentist is a Detective
If you’re the “average” healthy individual, your dentist typically gets to see you more often each year than your medical doctor does. Your dental team has a unique opportunity to help spot health concerns or worrisome trends — including high blood pressure, inflammation of the gums and pocketing — that could signify inflammation, even diabetes, elsewhere in the body.
Statistics show that 20 million Americans will see a dentist this year, but will not see a primary health care provider.
A generally healthy person who may or may not see their doctor annually may actually spend more time — twice a year — with a dentist and hygienist, than with any other health care provider. That’s why your dental team may be able to spot trends in high blood pressure as well as discuss family history, or open a conversation about smoking or an unhealthy diet. Dr. Gunderson says, “If we see anything suspicious, we first and foremost provide the best and most appropriate dental care, and then strongly encourage our patient to talk about any identified health issues with a physician. We’ll also offer to call their doctor ourselves. To do anything less is a disservice to both the oral health and overall well being of our patients.”
We don’t know for sure if gum disease has a direct link to heart disease, but there are threads of evidence that the two may be tied together. Experts agree there are plausible reasons why dental health and heart health may be intertwined. Regardless, the possibility of improved heart health is simply one more great reason to get the dental care you need for a long list of other oral and overall health benefits.
Feel free to schedule an appointment with your local First Choice Dental office now. You can also explore these resources for more information on the connection between heart health and dental health:
• Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health
• Heart Disease & Oral Health
• Periodontal Disease & Heart Health
Thank you for visiting First Choice Dental!