For most of us, when we think of February, we probably think about Valentine’s Day and love. But did you know that this month is also dedicated to your heart and your gum health? While you may know that both heart disease and gum disease are bad for your health, did you know that they are connected? While the cause & effect of the heart/gum connection is still being studied, research has shown strong links.
Since 1964, February has been designated American Heart Month by the American Heart Association (AHA) to raise awareness and fight against heart disease. Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, knowing the risks for heart disease is vital.
This year with the Covid-19 pandemic, the AHA says that patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because the virus can cause heart damage.
Since 2012, February has also been Gum Health Awareness Month, according to the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry. Their campaign, Fight Gum Disease raises awareness about gum disease, which affects 50 million Americans, most of whom do not even know they have any problems.
Not only is gum disease the leading cause of tooth loss, but studies show a link between gum disease and many health issues, including Covid-19. Last year, we published a blog about the Covid-19/oral health connection. Because of these links, oral health is more important than ever.
The Gum/Heart Connection
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, studies show that periodontal (gum) disease is linked to cardiovascular (heart) disease. While the exact reason for the connection is still being studied, medical and dental researchers believe that the inflammation associated with gum disease is the culprit.
Research has also shown that the plaque in our arteries, which causes atherosclerosis contains some of the oral bacteria that causes gum disease. That same harmful oral bacteria can be dangerous if you have heart valve disease or artificial heart valves as well because it can cause a dangerous infection called, endocarditis, causing inflammation of the heart valve.
How can mouth bacteria get to your heart? Your bloodstream. When you have gum disease, your gum tissue is ulcerated, allowing harmful oral bacteria to flow through your blood throughout your body.
Good News for Heart & Gums!
The good news is that you can reduce risks to your heart by making sure that your gums are healthy. The path to healthy gums starts with a visit to your dentist or periodontist for a full periodontal health evaluation.
Your own oral care habits are also vital to gum health. Brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings removes harmful bacteria, which reduces your risks for gum disease.
Here at the Pennsylvania Center for Periodontology, we want to help you keep your gums healthy for better oral and overall health! For a healthier heart and gums, you can learn more about gum disease risks by visiting our Resource Page and contacting us to schedule an appointment for a full periodontal evaluation.