February is the month of hearts. Candy hearts, chocolate hearts, flower hearts, and yes, even our actual hearts. In fact, February is American Heart Health Month, a time when health professionals come together to raise awareness of heart disease and talk about some habits to change to reduce the risk. Even though it may seem as if your dentist in Sacramento has nothing to do with heart health, research has shown a surprising connection between the two.
An often overlooked part of overall oral health is the gums. But these soft tissues play a crucial role in overall oral health, and it’s important to keep them healthy. All too often, patients develop an infection in the gums called gum disease. It’s estimated that over 50% of Americans 30 and older have some form of this disease. Usually caused by poor oral hygiene, gum disease is a serious infection that requires early diagnosis and treatment in order to be reversible.
Gum disease develops when plaque isn’t removed from teeth. This plaque will start to harden into tartar, and once this happens, you won’t be able to remove the tartar by simply brushing your teeth at home. In fact, your dentist in Sacramento or your dental hygienist is the only one who can remove tartar. Besides that, tartar is loaded with bacteria. What happens when you leave bacteria alone? They multiply and begin to cause an infection. In this case, they cause gum disease.
There are four stages of gum disease:
- Gingivitis – can be reversed with early intervention
- Slight Periodontal Disease – irreversible and can cause bone loss
- Moderate Periodontal Disease – irreversible and lead to tooth loss
- Advanced Periodontal Disease – irreversible and lead to problems throughout the body
How Does Gum Disease Affect The Heart?
When gum disease is allowed to progress into the third or fourth stages, the bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream. When this happens, your body produces more C-reactive protein (CRP) than normal. Elevated levels of CRP can cause some serious cardiovascular issues including:
- Inflamed arteries
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
Gum Disease Symptoms
It’s important to catch gum disease early when treatment is often more successful and before it can affect the heart, so it’s important to know the symptoms. Some common signs of gum disease include:
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Puffy, tender gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of the symptoms of gum disease, schedule an appointment with your Sacramento dentist as soon as you can.
Prevent Gum Disease
This month, and every month, make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your gums and, in turn, protect your heart. Brush and floss every day, see your dentist in Sacramento at least twice a year, eat a healthy diet, and don’t use tobacco products.