What do Bad Breath and Heart Disease Have in Common?
When most people think about bad breath, they do not think about heart disease. In fact, bad breath and heart disease have something in common, gum disease. Unfortunately, gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, and inflammation may be the linking factor.
Gum Disease Leads to Bad Breath
Even if you can’t see your gums receding or haven’t experienced bleeding, swollen red gums, you may still have gum disease if you experience chronic bad breath, also called halitosis, that cannot be alleviated with brushing, flossing, mouthwash and breath fresheners. Gum disease causes an excessive buildup of bacteria in the mouth and below the gum line, and it is this explosion of bacteria that can lead to chronic halitosis. The bacteria can also lead to gum infections and abscesses, which can exasperate your halitosis.
The Progression of Mouth Bacteria, Bad Breath and Gum Disease
It is important to understand that gum disease develops slowly over time, and many people do not have any significant symptoms until the disease had significantly progressed. Gum disease, including gingivitis and periodontal disease, starts with an explosion of bacteria. It is important to understand that bacteria are always present in the mouth, and every time you eat or drink something other than water, the bacteria in your mouth feed off the food particles. If you do not brush and floss your teeth regularly to remove the food particles, bacteria and plaque, your mouth will experience a chronic explosion of bacteria.
High levels of mouth bacteria can attack the enamel of the teeth and the gum tissue, which leads to tooth decay and cavities. While excessive bacteria and early stage tooth decay and cavities may not cause pain, they will cause chronic bad breath that is not helped by brushing, flossing or the use of breath fresheners.
If you find yourself using lots of breath fresheners, it may be a sign of early-stage gum disease that has been caused by an explosion of bacteria, and if left untreated, that mouth bacteria may enter your bloodstream, causing inflammation in your circulatory system.
How Gum Disease Leads to Poor Heart Health
While gum disease may not seem like a serious condition, it can lead to a serious condition in the form of heart disease. According to Dentistry IQ, individuals with gum disease may be nearly twice as likely to develop problems with their circulatory system, including a hardening of the arteries, blood clots in the legs and heart attacks and strokes.
Scientists believe the increased risk is due to the increased bacteria in the mouth. As the bacteria move deeper into the gum tissue, it starts breaking apart that tissue. Eventually, the bacteria move so deeply into the gums that they find their way into the small blood vessels and migrate through the vessels into the circulatory system. Once the bacteria is present in the bloodstream, the body begins to fight it with the immune system, which creates an inflammatory response. This inflammation in the arteries then leads to artery hardening, which is a component of heart disease.
Protecting Your Oral Health and Heart Health
Regular dental care can help you reduce your chances for developing gum disease and reduce your risk for developing heart disease. It all starts with regular brushing and flossing at home. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day for three minutes with an ADA approved toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When you brush your teeth, you should strive to reach every surface of the tooth and along the gum line. If you have trouble using a manual toothbrush, we recommend switching to an electric toothbrush. Before you go to bed or after you get up in the morning, you should also floss your teeth. Flossing helps remove the plaque between the teeth, which turns into tartar within about 24 hours if it is not removed.
Next, you should schedule regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings about every six months. A professional teeth cleaning, x-rays and an oral examination can help prevent gum disease and the inflammation that follows. If you do start to develop gingivitis or periodontal disease, getting frequent appointments can help catch it at the earliest stages so that the progression can be reversed and your oral health restored. By keeping your teeth and gums healthy, you are preventing inflammation in your mouth and potentially inflammation in your circulatory system.