Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 13-12-2022
There are many benefits that come with visiting your dentist on a regular basis. Consistent professional cleanings help keep your mouth healthy and your smile bright. Your dentist will remove plaque, tartar, check for cavities, and look for potentially serious conditions like gum disease.
Maintaining your oral health doesn’t just have consequences for your smile. If not dealt with properly, cavities can lead to gum disease, which can then affect the health of your heart.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, begins with an inflammation of the gums. As plaque builds up in the mouth, it eventually turns to tartar, which then turns into cavities. These cavities, if left untreated, can cause gum disease.
Plaque is a sticky invisible film containing millions of bacteria, and can only be removed by a professional cleaning from your dentist. Regular visits to your dentist can prevent plaque levels from increasing and becoming tartar. This tartar, if left alone, will lead to tooth decay, oral infections and serious gum problems. (Your dentist is able to remove tartar as well, using a technique called scaling.)
Periodontal disease results in the eventual breakdown of the gums, teeth, and bones. Your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, thus leaving more room for bacteria to grow.
Signs of Gum Disease
Your dentist will be able to diagnose you with gingivitis (gum inflammation) or periodontal disease, but here are some signs that you can look out for at home:
- You have red, swollen, and sore gums.
- You notice that your gums start bleeding whenever you brush, floss, or even eat.
- You can already see that your gums are pulling away from your teeth.
- You often have a lingering bad taste in your mouth or bad breath.
- You feel that some of your teeth are becoming loose.
- You can see signs of infection, such as pus between your teeth.
Dental Health and the Heart
Those who develop periodontitis, which is an advanced form of periodontal disease, do have a higher risk of heart disease. Tooth decay (brought on by tartar and cavities), and the resulting tooth loss, are associated with coronary artery disease. Additionally, your heart valves can be impacted by poor oral health. An unhealthy mouth increases the likelihood of a bacterial infection entering the bloodstream and reaching the heart, thus leading to a condition called endocarditis.
Atherosclerosis and Endocarditis
Atherosclerosis is the clogging of your heart’s arteries due to hardened plaque build-up. When you develop periodontal disease, your gum line recedes and exposes a gap between your teeth and your gums. The mouth is full of bacteria, and some of these bacteria use this gap to enter the bloodstream. From there, the bacteria travel to the heart where it settles onto the inner walls of the arteries and turns into plaque. Ultimately, this concentration of plaque narrows the arteries, limiting blood flow and spurring cardiovascular disease.
Endocarditis is an infection in the inner lining of the heart. This is a serious condition brought on by poor dental hygiene. If your gums become infected, the bacteria causing the infection can migrate to your heart, spreading to the inner lining and impacting valve function. When your heart valves stop working properly, you’re at a heightened risk for a heart attack. If you have artificial valves, then developing endocarditis is particularly dangerous.
Tips for Oral Hygiene
Keeping your mouth healthy is the best way to prevent things like cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Since plaque and tartar can only be removed by your dentist, you should make a dental appointment twice a year. Regular professional cleanings can prevent intense gum, teeth, and bone problems.
If you are diagnosed with gum disease, then you need to have a dental cleaning every three to four months. Without these frequent visits, your gum disease is likely to progress and lead to serious complications. Periodontitis cannot be completely reversed, so it’s crucial to act quickly once gum disease is detected.
You should also take steps at home to maintain your oral health. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Make sure that you reach every tooth, and don’t forget to floss!
Preventing Cavities, Avoiding Gum Disease, and Ensuring Heart Health
A healthy mouth means a healthy heart and life.
Improper brushing and flossing, especially when combined with infrequent visits to your dentist, create the perfect conditions for the build-up of plaque on your teeth. Without professional cleanings, this plaque hardens into tartar and, eventually, turns into cavities. Untreated cavities can then become gum disease.
Although more studies are needed to learn more about the connection between the mouth and the heart, there are indications that gum disease can negatively impact the heart. What began as a cavity can turn into atherosclerosis (clogging of the heart’s arteries) or endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart).
Visiting your dentist in Milton for regular dental cleanings is a key part of oral health and preventing gum disease. Your dentist has the tools to remove plaque, tartar, and diagnose periodontal disease in the early stages. When was the last time you had a professional cleaning?