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Can Gum Disease Predict Heart Health?

If your gums are bleeding, it may be a sign that you have periodontal disease, or more commonly known as gum disease. If you’ve already been told you have gum disease, you are not alone. More than 75 percent of American adults over age 35 get gum disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. While the majority of people find they have the less severe form of this disease, called gingivitis, between 5% and 15% do in fact have a much more serious problem, periodontitis. Your dentist can determine what’s causing your bleeding gums and, especially if caught early, can help you reverse or heal it, with proper oral hygiene.

The Link between Gum Disease and Your Health

People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease (also called heart disease), states the American Academy of Periodontology. One study found that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gingivitis, cavities, and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels. See your dentist as quickly as possible if you have the following symptoms, even if you don’t have any discomfort:

  • Changes in the way teeth fit together on biting, or in the fit of partial dentures
  • Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
  • Gums that bleed during and after tooth brushing
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums

What You Can Do to Treat Gum Disease

Your first line of defense is to visit the dentist at least once every 6 months for plaque removal and then to follow your dentist’s dental hygiene instructions at home. You should brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal. Your dentist may also recommend rinsing with salt water or hydrogen peroxide and water. Avoid using commercial, alcohol-containing mouthwashes, which can aggravate bleeding gums. You also need to floss your teeth twice a day to prevent plaque from building up. Avoiding snacking between meals and reducing carbohydrates can also help. Follow a balanced, healthy diet. Other tips to reduce your risk of gum disease include:

  • Avoid tobacco use, which aggravates bleeding gums.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, take recommended vitamin supplements.
  • Avoid aspirin unless your healthcare provider has recommended that you take it.
  • If side effects of medication are irritating, ask your doctor to recommend another medication. Never change your medication without consulting your doctor.
  • Use an oral irrigation device on the low setting to massage the gums.
  • See your dentist if your dentures do not fit correctly or if they are causing sore spots in your gums.

Gingivitis sounds complicated, but it just means that your gums are inflamed. However, if it’s not taken care of, gingivitis can become a serious issue. It’s a chronic condition caused by the long-term effects of plaque and tartar build up. Most of us have some degree of gingivitis from time to time, but consistent dental care can turn it around. Plaque can be easily removed with brushing and flossing, but tartar requires a trip to the dentist, where specialized cleaning equipment is used to break it off and allow the gums to heal.

If you have signs of gum disease, take care of yourself and prevent further problems by seeing your dentist soon. Your heart health may depend upon it!  Schedule your appointment with The Schiff Dental Group today!