February is hearth health month, and the spotlight is on making heart-healthy choices. When most people think of day to day habits they can change to benefit their heart, diet is probably the first thing to pop into their heads. Others may think of incorporating exercise into your lifestyle, or quitting smoking. But there’s one risk factor for heart disease that many people still don’t know: Your oral health habits.

Gum Disease Can Sneak Up On You

If you don’t brush and floss well and consistently, or if you’re skipping regular dental cleanings, plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. This can lead to periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease.

The symptoms of gum disease can be deceptively inconspicuous: Red or swollen gums, bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, and painful chewing. Other symptoms include receding gums, loose teeth, and even persistent bad breath. Unfortunately, because these symptoms are so easy to miss, many people don’t realize they’re suffering from gum disease until they’ve had it for years — particularly if they’re failing to regularly visit the dentist for checkups.

Gum disease can lead to heart problems

If gum disease is left untreated, the consequences can be extreme. Not only is it the leading cause of tooth loss in America, but it’s tied to a host of other health problems as well. For example, gum disease and diabetes can make each other worse. Gum disease has been linked to pancreatic cancer. It can even increase your Alzheimer’s risk. And, of course, it can affect your heart.

How Heart Health and Oral Health Are Linked

Dental health might seem disconnected from overall health, but in reality, the health of your teeth, tongue, and mouth can affect your entire body. The link between gum disease and heart disease is a perfect example of this.

Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States for both men and women. In fact, one in four American deaths is due to heart disease. And believe it or not, poor oral health can increase your risk of being one of the over 600,000 people who die of heart disease every single year.

There have been plenty of studies over the years trying to nail down the precise nature of the link between gum disease and heart disease. Meta-analysis suggests that people with gum disease are almost 20% more likely to have a cardiovascular event. That risk is more than doubled (44%) in subjects under the age of 65.

Although the mechanism by which these diseases are linked is still unclear, some scientists believe that the bacteria from the oral infection can enter the bloodstream and reach the heart. And if you think it isn’t a widespread problem, think again: 75% of Americans have at least a mild form of gum disease.

Luckily, treatment can eliminate gum disease and eliminate that increased risk of heart disease.

Do you have symptoms of gum disease in Rockland County? A dentist can find out for sure, and provide treatment to get those gums healthy again. Call (845) 627-7645 or contact us online to make an appointment.