Studies suggest that people who have gum disease seem to be at a higher risk for heart attacks, although no one is certain how this relationship works. The current theory is that bacteria present in infected gums can come loose and move throughout the body. The same bacteria that cause gum disease and irritate your gums might travel to your arteries. Researchers are unsure what causes the bacteria to become mobile, but it has been suggested that bacteria can be dislodged and enter the bloodstream during tasks as simple as brushing, flossing or even chewing.
Research shows that your risk of developing cardiovascular disease varies according to the severity of gum infection. The worse the infection, the more likely the bacteria are to become blood-borne. Infected gums bleed, making it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. If bacteria become dislodged, the bacteria can enter through cuts or sores in your mouth and can travel to other parts of the body through your bloodstream.
If bacteria reach the arteries, they can irritate them in the same way that they irritate gum tissue. This could cause arterial plaque to accumulate, which can cause hardening of the arteries and decreased or blocked blood flow. Compromised blood flow to your heart can cause a heart attack. Also, arterial plaque can come loose and travel to other parts of the body. If a blockage occurs in the brain, it can cause a stroke.
How Do You Prevent Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by plaque buildup. Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.
What Does Periodontal Treatment Involve?
In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing.
In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums sometimes with the assistance of a laser and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone.
The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.