06Nov

The Chapel Hill General Dentist Explains the Link between Oral Health and Heart Disease

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

Are your gums tender and inflamed? Do they bleed when you brush?

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a common problem that affects nearly half of adults over the age of 30. It is a bacterial infection that attacks gum tissue and supporting structures of your teeth.

Severe gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss. As serious as that is, patients of our Chapel Hill general dentist are surprised to learn that there are other serious physical complications associated with the disease.

While periodontal disease, heart disease, and stroke may seem to be completely unrelated, numerous studies show that people suffering from gum disease are at twice the risk for coronary heart disease. Researchers have also found that oral infection is a risk factor for stroke.

Heart Disease and Stroke

We know now that the presence of periodontal disease can aggravate existing heart conditions. Several theories explain the link between heart disease, stroke, and periodontal disease:

  • Oral bacteria affect the heart– There are many strains of periodontal bacteria. Some of these enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. This buildup contributes to clot formation, putting you at higher risk for gum disease.
  • Immune System– Individuals who have high levels of oral bacteria may also have weaker immune systems. This may set off a chain of events that have been shown to contribute to the onset of specific forms of heart disease.

Seeking Treatment for Gum Disease

Since periodontal disease appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is essential to seek immediate treatment.

The good news is that with semi-annual exams and cleanings, Chapel Hill general dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan and conscientious oral hygiene, you may never have to worry about developing gum disease. If it’s time for your routine appointment, please call our office.