Artery Plaque

Artery Inflammation

Do you have gum disease?  Did you know gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss and has also been associated with heart disease, low birth weight, diabetes and other health problems?  According to the Center for Disease Control, 50% of US adults have some form of gum disease (periodontal disease).  Major risk factors for periodontal disease include a generic predisposition, smoking, lack of routine home care, diet, certain systemic diseases, and various medications.

Early inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis.  The signs and symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath.  Gingivitis is most often caused by inadequate oral hygiene.  Plaque accumulates around your teeth and can become mineralized, forming tartar (calculus).  With the removal of calculus and improvement in oral hygiene, gingivitis is reversible.  However, gingivitis, if left untreated, can advance to chronic periodontitis, a more serious infection.  Plaque and associated bacteria penetrate deeper and eventually destroy bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place.

How are periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease connected?  The first evidence linking periodontitis to heart disease was in a 1989 study conducted in Finland.  Patients who had experienced heart attacks often had advanced periodontal disease.  Several studies since 1989 have shown patients with periodontal disease have an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.  Research suggests that inflammatory proteins and bacteria associated with gum disease enter a person’s blood stream and cause thickening of the blood vessel walls, typically seen in heart disease.

Treating gum disease and its associated inflammation is not only important to your teeth, it may help in managing other diseases and chronic inflammatory conditions.

What can I do to keep my gums and body healthy?  It is important to practice proper oral hygiene, visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and teeth cleanings to remove plaque and tartar deposits.