Dental Health – The Heart of the Problem

September 9, 2015

heartAccording to the Center for Disease Control, it is the leading cause of death since 1921. In 2013 there were over 600,000 related deaths in the United States. What is it? Heart disease; primarily coronary artery disease. An estimated 1.2 million people suffered from a new or recurrent heart attack in 2010, and chances are you know someone who has suffered from a coronary ailment in their lifetime. With the rise of heart disease, much focus has been put on the causes and risk factors that have made these issues so prevalent. The most commonly addressed factors are things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Many of these stem from behaviors that are known to have negative effects, such as smoking, poor diet, and insufficient exercise, but there is growing concern for another lesser known factor: periodontal (gum) disease.

Stuck together

The correlation starts with the other risk factors that must be taken into account. The same things that put people at a higher risk for heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet, and insufficient exercise, also put people at a higher risk for gum disease. Beyond this, researchers are consistently investigating and finding links between the bacteria from gum disease and the development and progression of heart disease. Although it’s important to recognize the links between these two conditions in the continual search for improved treatments and prevention, just because you do or don’t have some form of gum disease doesn’t necessarily determine whether or not you’ll develop heart disease.

What can we do?

For gum disease, the basic prevention techniques are the standards you always hear from your dentist or hygienist: brush, floss, keep your regular checkups, avoid tobacco products, and maintain a healthy diet. All of these will make sure that you put yourself in the best position to avoid periodontal conditions in the first place. But, in the event any issues do arise, keeping your regular checkups will help with early detection; a huge factor in making sure conditions like this can be easily treated and prevented in the future. As far as heart disease, working with your dentist to avoid periodontal disease is a great step that can help on multiple fronts, but remember to discuss risk factors with your doctor such as behaviors, age, other conditions, and genetic predisposition.

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