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Gum Disease & Heart Disease. What is the link?


It has been said that the mouth is a reflection on a person's overall health, so what does it say about their heart health?

Changes in lifestyle over recent years has seen people consume a higher fat diet & lead a more sedentary way of life.This in combination with other modifiable risk factors; smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure & poorly controlled diabetes, has meant that heart disease has become the single biggest cause of death in the developed world and will continue to be a major health problem in the UK.

Atherosclerosis is a slow progressive disease in which atheroma (plaque) builds up in the inner walls of arteries, in particular coronary arteries.This causes them to harden and thicken over time, reducing the volume of blood able to flow through them.The plaque can rupture and break off which could result in a complete blockage of a vessel and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Although it's unclear what causes heart disease to start, it is thought that inflammation plays a role in the development of plaque along side modifiable risk factors. Healthy arteries are not sticky but with increased inflammation, there are more adhesion molecules present allowing cells to stick to the artery walls and initiate plaque formation.

Periodontal disease is a destructive inflammatory condition of gums and the supporting structures of teeth. It's caused by plaque accumulating at the gum line due to poor oral hygiene measures. Plaque is a soft, adherent film made mainly of bacteria and when is not removed effectively can initiate the disease process. Although it's the bacteria in plaque that causes periodontal disease, it's the way the body's own immune system responds to the plaque bacteria that causes the majority of the breakdown of the gum & supporting tissues.

Heart disease and gum disease share a significant trait; inflammation. It has been suggested that particular bacteria associated with gum disease can migrate into the bloodstream and cause low-grade systemic inflammation and this could increase likelihood of atheroma formation.

So how can your Hygienist help?

Studies have shown that treatment for gum disease can reduce systemic inflammation. After treatment for gum disease and continued good home care from patients, the oral tissues can begin to repair and regenerate which will gradually reduce the amount of localised inflammation. With reduced oral inflammation, there are less harmful bacteria present to enter the bloodstream and have a negative impact on coronary arteries.

Smoking has a negative impact on oral heath as well as general health. Certain chemicals in cigarettes cause cells to build up in artery walls, reducing blood flow. Smokers have reduced ability to carry oxygen around the body which increases the risk of blood clots.These clots can become dislodged from the artery wall and completely obstruct a vessel that's already been narrowed by atheroma. Your hygienist will be able to provide you with advice to help you stop smoking & discuss how it will help your mouth health.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is required for certain functions of the body, there are good and bad cholesterols. By consuming a diet high in saturated fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol in the body which could increase the likelihood of it building up in coronary arteries. By eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise will keep patients healthy and reduce their risk of heart disease.

Poorly controlled diabetes allows excess glucose to travel in the bloodstream.This constant high level can damage the artery walls and increase inflammation. Although not always modifiable, keeping it well controlled can limit the amount of systemic problems caused. Prolonged poorly controlled diabetes can also cause worsening of gum disease so by improving how it's controlled can help both mouth health & heart health.

Although years of research have been used to try and link both gum & heart disease, it can be hard to establish a link due to other factors which are implicated in both diseases. By leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising & attending for regular dental appointments will reduce the risk of gum disease and hopefully have a positive impact on general health too. 

Please get in touch for more information or to make an appointment to see your Dental Hygienist.

Louise Syrett Dental Hygienist

Autumn Winter Newsletter 2018
Our Focus on Prevention


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Monday, 03 August 2020

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