Gum disease is a common, unpleasant experience. You may not realize, however, that it can increase your risk of health problems in general.

Your oral health affects your overall well being, and gum disease has been linked to multiple issues in other parts of the body, particularly vital organs such as the heart and brain.

Gum disease – also referred to as periodontitis or periodontal disease – may put you at greater risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Can Gum Disease Cause Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the organ is blocked, typically by a blood clot.

The jury still appears to be out on whether there’s a direct link between cardiovascular issues and gum disease, but numerous studies indicate that people with periodontitis have higher rates of heart problems than those with good oral health.

Health experts at Harvard Medical School say the plaque that causes gum disease may be connected to plaque found in arteries – the hallmark of coronary heart disease. They assert that people with periodontal disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other significant cardiovascular problem.

Although as yet there’s no definitive proof that treating gum disease can prevent a heart attack, the connection between the two conditions is compelling enough for many dentists and doctors, who say the available evidence provides a further reason to be vigilant about maintaining healthy gums.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Strokes

A stroke cuts off blood supply to your brain, starving it of oxygen and vital nutrients. The most common form of the condition is ischaemic stroke, caused by a blood clot getting into the brain.

Gum disease and strokes have a lot in common – probably more than you think. Both conditions are associated with vascular inflammation. Gum disease causes infection and inflammation, which can increase the risk of stroke, possibly due to the body’s immune response.

Countless studies across the world have established a link between gum disease and strokes.

A 2018 study in the US reinforced the connection between periodontal disease and increased risk of suffering a stroke in the future. Researchers also found that that regular dental care was associated with lower stroke risk.

An earlier study had concluded that gum disease was an independent risk factor for ischemic stroke in men and younger subjects.

How to Avoid Gum Disease

According to the Canadian Dental Association, seven in 10 people will get gum disease at some point in their lives.

Besides heart attacks and stroke, gum disease has also been linked to:

  • Lung infections.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Increased risk of cancer.
  • Premature birth.
  • Erectile dysfunction.

The main cause of gum disease is neglecting oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily can help to avoid gum disease, especially when supported by regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings.

The importance of preventive dentistry to minimize the risk of gum disease and other dental problems is a major focus of our dental office.