February is American Heart Month, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA), encouraging all Americans to focus on ensuring they are taking good care of their heart health.

This month, it’s vital to remember that your oral health is closely linked to your heart health, and that no approach to improving your heart health will be fully successful without preventing and treating gum disease.

How Your Oral Health Impacts Your Heart Health

Many people think that your oral health is separate from that for the rest of your body. Partly, this is because we see different doctors for these two different areas (although there are good reasons for that), but it’s simply a mistaken opinion. All the bacteria that are in your mouth have ready access to your body, including your blood vessels and heart. And there are three major ways that bacteria can impact your heart health.

First, bacteria can actually infect your heart. Toothbrushing and even eating can cause bacteremia–bacteria in your blood–if you have gum disease. When bacteria invade your blood, they can establish themselves in your heart, which can cause swelling of the heart valves, leading to heart failure.

Second, plaque can contribute to clogged arteries. Analysis of arterial plaque finds that oral bacteria are commonly found there, often alive, which means they might reproduce in the arteries and increase clogging. Clogged arteries can contribute to your heart attack and stroke risk.

Finally, gum disease can interact with diabetes, making it harder for you to control your blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are associated with serious heart risks.

Taking Care of Your Teeth Can Improve Heart Health

It’s important to understand that this is more than just a theoretical link. We’ve discovered a causal link from gum disease to heart disease. Studies have demonstrated an actual benefit to your heart from getting gum disease treated. One study showed that getting gum disease treatment led to reduced arterial clogging. Other studies have shown that getting gum disease treatment reduces your risk of hospitalization for heart problems. We’ve even discovered ancient cases of heart disease caused by gum disease.

If you are looking to improve your heart health this February by preventing or treating gum disease, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment with a Las Vegas dentist at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.