We all want teeth that function properly and look nice. Dental hygiene habits, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep your mouth in good shape -- but oral health goes beyond just your pearly whites. New research by the National Institutes of Health shows a significant relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and pre-term births.
It may be hard to understand how bad dental hygiene can impact heart health. But when we look at the root cause of periodontal disease — pathogens — the connection becomes clearer. Pathogens are organisms (living things), microorganisms or components of organisms that cause disease.
- Up to 50% of heart attacks may be triggered by oral pathogens.
- Gingivalis (a pathogen that causes gingivitis) may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Gingivalis raises your risk for a heart attack 13.6 times -- that’s twice the risk of a heavy smoker!
- Periodontal disease poses as much of a risk for stroke as high blood pressure does.
Research is finding that periodontal disease is not what causes systemic disease. It’s the pathogens that cause periodontal disease that may also contribute to systemic disease.
Systemic refers to something that affects an entire system – in this case, the body. That’s why people with periodontal disease are more likely to have other health problems.
Oral hygiene terms to know:
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) - Disease caused by plaque buildup on teeth. It can range from simple gum redness or inflammation to major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth, ultimately resulting in lost teeth.
Gingivitis - A mild form of periodontal disease where gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. It can usually be reversed by daily brushing, flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Periodontitis - When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis. Gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.
Schedule an appointment with your dentist today. Oral health is connected to overall health!