February is American Heart Month, which is reason enough to check in with your health care providers, including your dentist.
Dentists are part of your health care provider team and can treat oral health problems, some of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association published a statement in 2012 that supports an association between heart disease and gum disease.
According to the American Dental Association, gum disease “is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.”
The American Heart Association statement noted that current scientific data do not indicate whether regular brushing and flossing and treatment of gum disease will decrease the incidence, rate or severity of the narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.
The American Dental Association has valuable information about gum disease and periodontics on its consumer website, MouthHealthy.org. Click the A-Z Topics section from the home page to access the topics of heart disease and gum disease (periodontal disease) by alphabet.
The ADA supports Million Hearts, a campaign by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in five years. For information on Million Hearts, visit millionhearts.hhs.gov/© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.