Cardiovascular health is intertwined with all parts of the body, including teeth and gums. Good dental health can also improve your heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA), reports that a study in China showed people prone to high blood pressure who treated gum disease, or gingivitis, or periodontitis, which can result from untreated gingivitis, lowered their blood pressure. Almost thirty percent of Americans over the age of eighteen are dealing with high blood pressure and issues it causes. High blood pressure can cause heart attacks, strokes, and aid in dementia and kidney failure.
Blood pressure is measured by observing systolic numbers, representing pressure on blood vessel walls as the heart beats, and diastolic figures, the time between beats. Maintaining proper blood pressure levels (120/80 mmHg or lower) is essential to good health. Preventing gingivitis and periodontitis is one way to help in that effort. Those in the study decreased their systolic numbers by 13 points and their diastolic readings by almost 10 points after six months of intense treatment for gum disease.
Why gum disease helps cause high blood pressure
Among the common symptoms of gum disease is swelling. This swelling is caused by inflammation. Long known as an issue in cardiovascular health, inflammation hinders the flow of blood to the heart. It can start in the mouth, as it can in other parts of the body. Wherever it starts, it is not good for your blood pressure. Another characteristic of the mouth is that it can foster a lot of bacteria. Bacteria can cause arteries to become thicker, potentially leading to stroke.
Signs of gum disease
If gum disease is developing, signs may include puffy gums, new spaces between teeth and a tendency for gums to bleed. Additionally, bad breath or feeling that food doesn’t taste good can be indicators. If gums have become red or swollen, or teeth seem to be pulling away from the gum, disease may be present. A difference in bite or the way dental partials fit are also a sign of gum disease.
The causes of gum disease include generally poor dental hygiene, smoking, diabetes, genetic trends and even pregnancy.
Ways to prevent gum disease
It goes without saying that regular visits to the dentist will help you to know your state of dental health. Between visits, being cognizant of the way your mouth feels, any excess bleeding and other visible signs of gum disease should prompt you to make an unscheduled appointment. If you notice any change in your dental health, contact your dentist.
Proper brushing twice a day and flossing are necessary. Also, using a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash are also recommended. Regarding mouthwash, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), therapeutic mouthwash that prevents gingivitis, bad breath and tooth decay, is available over the counter or by prescription.
Some of the ways to prevent gum disease go hand in hand with good cardiovascular health. For instance, not smoking and reducing alcohol intake apply to both. Additionally, reducing stress and taking time to relax make sense to improve things for your heart and your mouth.
According to the AHA, more research is needed to learn as much as possible about the impact of good dental health on good heart health. Ethnic backgrounds, age and other factors need to be expanded in future studies. But it is now evident that there is a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular health.
If you are being treated for cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke and you notice a change in your dental health, keep your cardiologist apprised. Since gum disease and vascular health can be related, it is important that those taking care of you on all fronts are kept in the loop as you move forward to maintain a healthy heart and a healthy mouth.
To learn more about and the impact of good dental health on cardiovascular health, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.