We all know that when you flash someone a smile it warms the heart but there is another connection between your teeth and your heart that is very important. There are numerous confirmed studies that link periodontal (gum) disease to heart and other systemic disease. People with periodontal (gum) disease are at a greater risk because bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream and travels to other organs such as the heart and can cause harm. We tend to think of heart disease as mainly associated with men but heart disease is the number one killer of women. It is also the leading cause of disability among women and two-thirds of women who have a heart attack fail to recover completely.
What exactly is Periodontal disease? Periodontal (perio literally means “around” and “dontal” means tooth) disease destroys the fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth and the teeth begin to get loose and eventually fall out. Once you have lost that bone there is no way to get it back. It is estimated that 75% of people at some point will suffer periodontal disease.
The problem with oral disease (both decay and gum disease) is that it never hurts until it progresses to more advanced stages where the teeth begin to get loose. Gum disease is not inevitable and with proper care your teeth can last a lifetime.
To get a little more technical, oral byproducts enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make substances that inflame arteries and may cause blood clots that clog arteries leading to strokes and heart attacks. One of the substances that the liver makes in response to these bacteria and their byproducts is something called C Reactive Protein (CRP). Elevated CRP is a known risk factor for heart disease. You might want to ask your doctor to run a CRP blood level. Periodontal treatment is now part of the protocol when treating patients who have heart disease; the lucky ones anyway. Heart disease is still the number one killer (over 35% of deaths are from heart and heart related disease; from 2006 statistics). A normal CRP however does not mean you do not have gum disease. Gum disease is a chronic condition and it may not be at a level to increase CRP by itself.
Obviously, gum disease is not the only risk factor but it is enough to have doctors and surgeons incorporate oral health as part of their treatment protocol. Periodontal disease is also linked to failure of hip replacements. In fact, you have to have a clean bill of oral health before you can have hip replacement surgery. Also, people who keep their own teeth live on an average of up to 10 years longer!
Along with eating right and exercising, fixing crowded teeth can help reduce the incidence of gum disease, Straightening teeth is no longer done just for cosmetic reasons. Studies show the type of bacteria that collect around crooked teeth are more aggressive in causing gum disease. We treat patients of all ages with clear braces and in fact, the majority of patients in our practice undergoing clear braces are adults. Teeth that are aligned are easier to clean and take care of therefore reducing the risk of gum disease which can lead to heart and other disease.
Your teeth are an important part of your overall health. See your dentist regularly and instill good dental habits in your children.