Does Gum Disease Increase Risk of Heart Disease?

What does the research say?

Some recent research studies show an association between gum disease and heart disease. In one study from 2014, researchers looked at people who had both gum disease and heart disease. They discovered that people who had received adequate care for their gum disease had cardiovascular care costs that were 10 to 40 percent lower than people who didn’t get proper oral care. These findings support the idea that gum health affects heart health.

Given this evidence, the American Dental Association and American Heart Association have acknowledged the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease because inflammation in the gums and bacteria may eventually lead to narrowing of important arteries.

Gum diseases and other diseases

Gum disease and oral health may be related to other conditions, as well, such as:

  • Osteoporosis: Some research suggests that lower bone density leads to bone loss in the jaw. This may eventually lead to tooth loss due to a weaker underlying bone.
  • Respiratory disease: Bacteria in the mouth can move to the lungs and cause infections such as pneumonia. This is more common for people with periodontal disease.
  • Cancer: Some research suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of certain forms of cancer, such as kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers. More research is needed in this area.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Early research shows an association between RA and gum disease. However, more research is needed.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Gum disease symptoms

Regular visits to your dentist can help with early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. You should also let your dentist know if you have any symptoms of gum disease, including:

  • persistent bad breath
  • swollen, red gums
  • tender gums that bleed easily
  • pain with chewing
  • highly sensitive teeth
  • receding gums or sunken teeth
  • loose teeth or changes in bite

Just because you have one or several of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have gum disease. A dentist will make a formal diagnosis by reviewing the severity and duration of your symptoms. They will also evaluate your teeth and review your medical history. During your visit, they may:

  • measure your gums with a tiny ruler to check pocket depth
  • evaluate your gums for signs of inflammation and plaque buildup
  • take X-rays of underlying jaw bone to look for bone loss
  • examine sensitive teeth for receding gums
Heart disease symptoms

If your doctor suspects heart disease, they will make a diagnosis based on your medical history, the severity and duration of your symptoms, and the results of a physical examination. The following are common symptoms of heart disease:

  • chest pain, also known as angina, resulting from your heart not getting enough oxygen
  • arrhythmia, also known as irregular heart beat
  • shortness of breath
  • unexpected fatigue
  • dizziness and lightheadedness
  • sudden confusion or impaired thinking
  • excess buildup of fluid, known as edema
  • heart attack

The doctor will also evaluate your blood and examine risk factors for heart disease, such as family history and body weight. They can confirm a diagnosis with the following tests:

  • EKG to record the heart’s electrical activity
  • chest X-ray to visualize the heart and other organs in the chest
  • blood tests to evaluate levels of proteins, lipids, and glucose
  • stress test to document abnormal changes in your heart beat and breathing during exercise

What’s the outlook?

Research shows some connection between gum disease and heart disease. Bacteria buildup and inflammation in the oral cavity eventually leads to narrowing and blockage of blood vessels. However, more research is needed to better understand the connection.

Prevention

There are many healthy lifestyle habits you can use to maintain good oral hygiene and reduce your risk of gum and heart diseases.

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