The term “heart disease” describes any condition that negatively affects the function of your heart and/or blood vessels. Types of heart disease include heart rhythm problems, blockages in the blood vessels that feed the heart, damage to the valves and opening that keep blood flowing in the right direction, and damage to the heart muscle itself. What does this have to do with your gums and your oral health? Each type of heart disease has a different cause, and at least one type of heart disease can be caused by poor gum health.
Heart Disease Related to Gum Disease
The types of heart disease most commonly linked to gum disease are pericarditis, myocarditis, and endocarditis.
Pericarditis is inflammation in the pericardium; the sack that surrounds the heart (“peri” comes from the Greek word for around).
Myocarditis is inflammation in the actual heart muscle (“myo” comes from the Greek word for muscle).
Endocarditis is inflammation in the mucous membranes that line the inside of the heart (“endo” comes from the Greek for inside).
Regardless of where the inflammation occurs, all three conditions can damage your heart and prevent it from working properly. One of the most common causes of heart inflammation is a bacterial infection.
How Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is caused by bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth. The bacteria feed on residue on your teeth and, over time, can wear away the enamel and cause cavities. Those same bacteria can also attack the gums, causing swelling, pain and bleeding. The bacteria can also attack the roots of your teeth and, because the roots have a strong blood supply, bacteria can also get into your blood stream.
If the bacteria make it into your blood stream, they can travel to your heart causing pericarditis, myocarditis, or endocarditis.
Improving Your Gum Health
Proper dental hygiene is the best way to improve the health of your gums and prevent gum disease. Not only can you prevent gum disease, proper hygiene can also ensure better overall health and a better quality of life. After all, unhealthy teeth and gums leads to difficulty eating and the pain can really disrupt your life.
Regular Brushing: Brushing removes plaque, bacteria, and food residue from the surface of your teeth. You should brush at least twice a day: once in the morning and once before bed. You can also brush once during the day, especially if you have eaten a lot of sugary or acidic foods. Too much brushing can actually wear down your enamel so use a soft-bristle brush, brush in a circular motion, and no more than three times per day.
Regular Flossing: Dental floss removes plaque and food residue from between your teeth. You should floss after each brushing, and you can also carry floss with you to take care of food stuck between your teeth between brushings.
Regular Rinsing: Antiseptic mouthwashes rinse residue and food particles from teeth surfaces and from between your teeth. Mouthwashes can also kill much of the bacteria in your mouth to freshen your breath and help prevent gum disease. You should rinse your mouth after each brushing session, and you can also rinse once or twice a day between brushes.
Regular Dental Appointments: Regular dental visits not only prevent gum disease, they can also help detect other potential problems. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned and examined every six months for basic maintenance. If you have an existing dental problem, you should consult your dentist about more frequent visits.