Several studies have come out recently pointing to a very strong link between gum disease and heart disease. Scientists are still working out the exact reasons why, but the evidence from these is so strong that there is no doubt to many that the link between the two is solid. The studies show that almost all patients with heart disease also had some stage of gum disease.
Heart disease has long been the deadliest disease in the United States, and still manages to kill over 600,000 people in our country every year, according to the CDC. We’ve been grappling with this problem for a long time, and most people are aware of long-standing links of obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and even smoking to increased risk and the epidemic of heart disease in America. While these links are still true, and still very important factors when looking at the patterns of this illness across the country, gum disease is now coming to light within the scientific and medical communities. So let’s explore more about what gum disease is.
WHAT EXACTLY IS GUM DISEASE?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque, bacteria, and food particles and an overall lack of hygiene and care. If this persists, the gums become infected by the bacteria and eventually become very inflamed. Treating gum disease is a long a difficult process, and treatment procedures can be painful and unpleasant. Not only does this affect your gums and overall oral health, having all of that bacteria and inflammation in your mouth, but there is a link between gum disease and your overall health.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
We know heart disease is epidemic, it accounts for almost 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States. What if we told you that gum disease is common among many adult patients, but because most patients don’t die from direct causes of gum disease it’s not seen as such a threat? Many patients also avoid going to the dentist, so the disease remains widely under-diagnosed.
THERE ARE TWO THINGS YOU SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM THESE FINDINGS:
- Visit your dentist regularly. Part of the problem with heart disease is that it usually does not show symptoms until later on in the disease. The symptoms are usually severe, i.e. a heart attack and a lack of other indicators makes the disease hard to diagnose if not monitored preemptively. This is also true of other systemic diseases, which begin to show early signs within the mouth, before becoming symptomatic in other parts of the body. Your dentist really does look out for your overall health, and regular cleanings and oral exams can spot dental problems as well as more serious health concerns.
- Brush and floss regularly. You knew it was coming! The only real preventative for gum disease is regular brushing and flossing. Don’t be afraid to ask your hygienist if you need some help with your technique or help finding the right products for you.
According to the CDC, the United States spends over $100 billion annually on heart disease. That’s a lot of money! The United States also spends just $2 billion annually on dental products… what would happen if we made an adjustment here?