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Dentists’ Latest Concern: Gum Disease and the Heart

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Over the last few decades, researchers have looked at the connection between the health of your mouth and the health of your heart and there are some interesting connections which have caused both dentists and cardiologists to be concerned. Dr. Fred Guerra of Guerra Dental in Colorado Springs is a proponent of helping people avoid larger health problems by improving their overall dental health. 

Gum disease starts with when plaque (the sticky film of bacteria and food) builds up around your teeth. The plaque releases acids that attack your tooth enamel and causes decay. Shortly after this, if you don’t brush your teeth, plaque hardens into tartar. Tartar makes it hard to completely clean your teeth and gums. As Tartar builds up, it can lead to inflammation and infection. Similarly, coronary artery disease starts with a plaque that builds in your arteries and is made of calcium, cholesterol and other substances found in blood. Known as atherosclerosis, this plaque is what causes heart disease.

 

So how are these two different types of plaque connected?

There are numerous studies that have found links that are believed to connect these two things as indicators of health but nothing definitive has been found that directly attributes heart disease to gum disease in the studies. People with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event according to a Harvard study. However, other issues including smoking, unhealthy diet, and genetics may be the reason more people with gum disease also have heart issues.

 

The larger link is the link to inflammation in your body and how that inflammation is processed. Researchers are finding that long-term (chronic) inflammation is a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis. Dr Kevin Short, a UC health Cardiologist, says “systemic inflammation makes heart disease much worse and reducing that through proper dental and overall healthy habits is the goal.” 

According to Dr Fred Guerra of Guerra Dental, the best thing you can do is brush and floss after every meal, spend at least 2 minutes brushing at each session and floss between all teeth. Twice-yearly cleanings by a dentist or hygienist are essential to keep up good oral hygiene.

  

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Dr Fred Guerra- Dr Guerra is a dentist with Guerra Dental and may be reached at 719-259-7043

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