You’re probably not thinking about heart health when you’re reaching for the toothbrush but that routine cleaning, along with regular prevention, is giving you much more than a pretty smile.
A recent study from the European Society of Cardiology showed gum disease, or periodontitis, was significantly more common in first-time heart attack patients and that regular dental screenings can help prevent them.
Dr. Hilary Dalton of Dalton Dental in Tampa says a severe gum infection from bacteria and buildup can lead to the release of toxins and bone damage below the gum.
"Think of all of this damage almost like a leaky gut. So what happens is that the bacteria actually can go inside your bloodstream, so not only will you have this localized severe chronic inflammation, now you're putting that into your body,” says Dalton.
She explains that can also cause inflammation in the heart vessels. The damage continues as plaque and food get below the gums and attaches to the root of the tooth. This can cause gum loss, bone deterioration and ulcerations in the gums.
Prevention is key, but gum disease is treatable. It’s important to pay attention to your gum health.
"You might have sensitivity, some people have dull aches. You'll start seeing your gums red. Healthy gums are pink,” says Dalton.
She says if you notice consistent bleeding while you’re brushing or flossing, make a dental appointment quickly.
"Come to your regular cleanings. If it's three months, four months, 6 months. You can prevent a lot of this,” explains Dalton.
Dentists will measure your gums for treatment plans, “we figure out okay, do you have mild, moderate, or severe,” says Dalton.
If it’s a mild case, deep cleaning to remove bacteria is done, if it’s more advanced, laser surgery is an option to help kill bacteria and regenerate the gums.