Six signs in your mouth you could be at risk of heart disease

Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk in 2021

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Many of us are aware of the importance of good oral hygiene. It ensures our teeth and mouths stay healthy, reducing the risk for issues such as decay, bad breath and tooth loss. However, it could have even more important protective benefits.

According to Doctor Helen Flaherty, director of health promotion and education at Heart Research UK, gum disease could raise your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues.

She explained: “You’ve probably heard the expression ‘health begins in the mouth’. This is because having good oral health is vital not only for your overall health but also for your general well-being.

“There is growing evidence that your oral health can have an impact on other organs, including your heart.”

Gum disease and bacteria

“Our mouth is a natural habitat for many diverse microbes,” Dr Flaherty said.

“This unique oral microbiome plays a crucial role in shaping and regulating our health by maintaining a dynamic environment that protects the oral cavity, prevents disease progression, and aids in initial digestion.

“Generally, our body’s immune system maintains a balance by keeping a check on the harmful bacteria, thus preventing any infection or disease.

“However, in cases of poor oral hygiene, the harmful bacteria flourishes, intruding the body’s defence barriers and leading to tooth decay and inflammation of the gums.

“One of the most common tooth conditions is gum disease, or periodontal disease, which starts with inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis.

“This initial stage presents as an increased accumulation of plaque containing bacteria that irritates the soft tissues, leading to redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums.

“Gingivitis can be easily reversed when adequate brushing and flossing become part of your daily routine.”

How this affects the heart

She said: “However, in the absence of oral hygiene, the disease progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis which is more aggressive because many complex bacteria are involved.

“The inflammatory response causes the inner layer of gum and bone to pull away from the tooth, creating periodontal pockets that increase the chances of collecting debris and becoming infected.

“Periodontitis is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults.

“Evidence suggests that the key link between heart health and gum disease is the spread of oral bacteria to distant sites of the body through the bloodstream.

“These bacteria, upon reaching the heart, have the potential to trigger an inflammatory reaction in vulnerable areas.

“As a result, conditions such as endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart and the valves) can occur.

“Recent studies have also reported periodontal bacteria detected in atherosclerotic arteries, suggesting the implications of bad oral hygiene leading to cardiovascular diseases.”

She shared the six symptoms of gum disease to look for:

  • Gums that are red, swollen, or painful to the touch
  • Bleeding gums when you brush, floss, or eat
  • Pus discharges from the gums
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Receding gum line
  • Gums pulling away from teeth or teeth getting wobbly to touch.

Dr Flaherty recommended the following routine to lower your risk of gum disease:

  • Brushing
  • Flossing
  • Using mouthwash
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Attending regular dental check-ups.

The most common signs of heart disease are chest pain and breathlessness.

If you think you have heart disease you should see your GP.

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