You may have heard that there’s a link between oral health and overall health. Although it’s unclear where the causality lies in some cases, study after study has shown that the two go hand-in-
hand. It’s true that what you choose to eat can affect both your mouth and your body. If, for example, you drink a ton of soda and eat processed foods, the sugar and chemicals could wear away at your enamel and feed bacteria in your mouth, creating ideal conditions for tooth decay and gum disease.
When consumed in in excess, these same foods and beverages could lead to issues like obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease, thanks to surplus amounts of sugar, fat, sodium, and chemicals like preservatives that your body can’t properly process. As it turns out, there are other ways that your oral health can be linked to heart health.
Those who maintain a strict oral health regimen are likely to avoid issues like gum disease, but more importantly, they’re also more likely to work on maintaining their overall health. Those who are lax about oral health are more likely to take the same approach to their overall health. Further, issues like gum disease can have a marked impact on the body if not addressed. What does this mean for your heart health? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease occurs when the gum tissue surrounding and supporting your teeth becomes infected. Advanced forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis, but there are multiple types of gum disease and none of them are good for your oral or overall health.
Gum disease starts when bacteria is allowed to spread below the gum line, forming plaque and eventually leading to tartar buildup. As the gums become irritated, patients will begin to see symptoms like redness, swelling, tenderness, and even bleeding over time, especially during brushing. Gums may start to pull away from teeth as the infection grows teeth may begin to feel loose.
Although the beginnings of gum disease may go unnoticed, symptoms like itchy gums, discomfort, and a bad smell or taste in the mouth will eventually become apparent. When patients follow a proper oral hygiene regimen, complete with brushing, flossing, and rinsing daily, as well as regular dental visits, gum disease probably won’t advance very far.
Even patients who practice proper oral care could still have issues related to heredity, illness, or use of medications, just for example. If you start to notice signs and symptoms of gum disease, it’s best to consult with your dentist right away. It’s easier to reverse gum disease in early stages and stave off much more serious problems.
What Happens if Gum Disease Goes Untreated?
If left untreated, infection in the gums can spread to teeth, causing tooth decay like cavities and infection of the pulp of the tooth. Abscesses, or pockets of severe infection, can form in gums, teeth, and even the jaw. This could lead to significant pain, trouble eating, and tooth loss. It can also be extremely detrimental to your overall health, and believe it or not, it could even end up being fatal.
How Can Gum Disease Lead to Heart Problems?
The first problem with gum disease is that it can impact the way you eat. When your mouth aches and everything tastes bad because of severe infection in the gums, it can cause you to stop eating the range of healthy foods that form a balanced diet. Lack of nutrition is not great for your overall health, and losing out on necessary nutrients could impact your heart health.
The bigger potential issue, however, centers on abscesses. These pockets of infection in gums can not only spread to your teeth and jaws; they can also enter your blood stream and begin to spread throughout your body. Even minor infection and inflammation could damage blood vessels in the mouth, allowing bacteria to enter the blood stream, but abscesses are of particular concern because they can become lodged in areas of the body such as the brain or heart, leading to fatal conditions like stroke or heart attack.
The long and short of it is that your oral and overall health are inextricably linked. When you don’t address issues like gum disease, your heart health could be at stake. If you don’t want to compromise overall health, make a point of practicing proper oral hygiene at home and make sure to schedule regular dental visits for checkup and cleaning.