Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, affecting one in 12 adults over 20 who are diagnosed and likely more who remain undiagnosed. Because heart disease is such a common life-threatening condition, many people want to understand all their potential risk factors. Let’s take a closer look at what heart disease is and how dental hygiene could be related.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a category that contains many conditions affecting the cardiovascular system. Different types of heart disease include blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems, heart infections and heart defects, all of which have different symptoms and risk factors.
Though many different diseases affect heart health, the term “heart disease” is often used to refer specifically to cardiovascular disease, a condition in which narrow and clogged blood vessels increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Here are a few common symptoms of cardiovascular disease to watch out for:
- Chest pain, tightness or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, weakness or numbness in the limbs
- Jaw, neck, abdomen or back pain
How Are Dental Hygiene and Heart Disease Related?
Many behaviors and conditions can contribute to cardiovascular disease, either directly or indirectly. One of these related conditions, periodontal disease, was found to be associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. In fact, people with periodontal disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other serious heart problem.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, occurs when the gums surrounding the teeth become infected by bacteria. This infection often leads to red, swollen or bleeding gums and can damage surrounding tissue and bone and lead to tooth loss.
There is no evidence that gum disease causes cardiovascular disease. However, the connection between the two conditions is compelling enough that dentists and doctors have taken note. One reason gum disease and heart disease might be connected has to do with inflammation. When the gums become infected, they also get inflamed as the body tries to eliminate the offending bacteria. Over time, chronic inflammation from periodontal disease may increase the body’s level of system inflammation, contributing to atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the blood vessels.
Alternately, the connection between gum disease and heart disease could be explained by their overlapping risk factors, including smoking, obesity and diabetes.
What Does the Connection Mean for Your Health?
If you have gum disease, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop heart disease, but you may be at higher risk. If you have other risk factors, you may want to get evaluated by a doctor. You should also establish good dental hygiene practices to promote healthy gums, regardless of the relation to cardiovascular health. Brush your teeth twice a day, focusing on the area where the gums meet the teeth, floss regularly and visit a dentist for routine cleanings and checkups.
If you have any concerns about how periodontal disease might affect your cardiovascular health, consider reaching out to your dentist — they can talk you through your worries and help you come up with a plan to protect your dental health.
Contact Dental Choice
If you’re looking for a dentist in Edmonton or Calgary, we hope you’ll consider Dental Choice. With more than 20 years of experience, we strive to make compassionate patient care our top priority. To learn more about our practice or request an appointment, please reach out to us today.