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How Can Oral Health Affect Heart Health?

added on: February 12, 2020
heart health month

Every February seems to bring out the love in people, and there are hearts everywhere we look. From heart candy and heart decorations, we’re surrounded by bright, red hearts. But we’re not here to talk about those kinds of hearts. Today, we want to focus on your heart and how your oral health can actually affect heart health. 

Heart Health Month 

Another holiday that happens in February besides Valentine’s Day is one that’s really important to your dentist in Reno. It’s Heart Health Month, which strives to raise awareness of what increases our risk of developing heart disease and what we can do to help lower that risk. But what does this have to do with your dentist? We’re glad you asked. 

The Connection Between Oral Health & Heart Health

When we talk about oral health as it relates to heart health, we want to put the focus on gum disease. Even though gum disease is an infection that originates in the mouth, it doesn’t mean that it can’t affect other areas of the body. The truth is, gum disease has been linked to a whole list of health concerns outside of the mouth including diabetic complications, lung conditions, and heart disease. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), people with gum disease are at increased risk for a heart attack. But how does an infection in the mouth cause problems elsewhere in the body? 

As it turns out, our gums have a direct connection to our bloodstream, and when an infection occurs in our gums, it can also easily enter the bloodstream. When this happens, your body produces too much of something called C-Reactive Protein (CRP). Higher than normal levels of CRP can cause: 

  • inflamed arteries
  • blood clots
  • heart attacks
  • strokes 

Elevated CRP levels can also be a warning sign before you may even know a problem is lurking in your body. The New England Journal of Medicine states that high CRP levels may be a top indicator of someone’s risk of a heart attack — more so than high cholesterol!

Know the Signs to Protect Yourself

Oftentimes symptoms of gum disease go unnoticed or people think they’re normal. However, being able to recognize when there may be a problem can mean the difference between successful treatment and bigger problems. Some common symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing 
  • Consistently bad breath 
  • Chronic bad taste in the mouth
  • Loose teeth 
  • Gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist in Reno as soon as you can. 

The best way to protect yourself against gum disease is to make sure you brush and floss your teeth every single day. Proper at-home oral hygiene will remove plaque and bacteria buildup before it has a chance to infect the gums. It’s also crucial to maintain regular checkups with your dentist in Reno at least every six months. Not only do these appointments help remove buildup that regular brushing just can’t get, but they also help your dental team keep an eye on your oral health so any problems are caught and treated early before they have a chance to affect the rest of the body.