The link between gum disease and heart disease.

Written by Dr. Lauren

Every Sunday I go to Walk with a Doc in Colorado Springs. This week, Dr. Cohen, who leads the walk asked me to  speak about dental health and how it relates to gum health. Many people do not know that periodontal disease is a risk factor for heart disease.


Here are the facts:

  • people with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have heart disease
  • potential heart disease risk for patients with periodontal disease may be even greater than those with high cholesterol


The link between the two diseases is likely due to the same bacteria. Bacteria in the gum tissues break down the barrier between the gum and connective tissue which causes inflammation. While a person with periodontal disease chews food or brushes their teeth, this same bacteria enters the blood stream and starts to affect the cardiovascular system.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is gum disease. It is when bacteria in plaque build up between the gums and teeth. When the bacteria begin to grow, the gums surrounding the tooth can become inflamed.

A lot of what causes heart disease is INFLAMMATION. This bacteria entering the bloodstream causes inflammation which leads to the breakage of plaques in people with  heart disease or atherosclerosis. Inflammation plays a huge role in atherosclerosis. It leads to the creation of plaques, the growth of plaques, and the breakage of plaques. Therefore inflammation is very harmful and it can all start from our mouth.

Unlike inflammation from a cut that goes away, the inflammation in atherosclerosis makes the artery walls worse and often makes the plaques bigger and worse.

So how can you prevent periodontal disease?

  • Firstly, go to a dentist that regularly uses a periodontal probe and checks if you are “bleeding on probing” and checks the depths of your gums and bone levels. You can even ask your dentist how your periodontal health is! Ifyour general dentist tells you to ever see a periodontist, or a gum specialist, definitely make the appointment and go. Too many times we have seen someone get referred and hear the treatment is costly and involved and not go through with treatment.
  • Know your family history of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, it is genetic.
  • brush twice a day
  • Swish with mouthwash (to reduce plaque or food particles that flossing or brushing missed)
  • FLOSS or clean with an interdental cleaner once a day (airfloss, waterpik)
  • avoid tobacco use
  • eat a balanced diet

The good news is that periodontal disease is reversible!


**On a side note, Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which in turn can increase blood surgar and diabetic complications.

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