Research shows a link between gum disease and heart disease and stroke. Evidence is mounting that people with gum (periodontal) disease, a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, gum disease may also make existing heart problems worse.
The inflammation caused by gum disease may help lead to the buildup of fatty deposits inside heart arteries.
Gum disease is not an independent risk factor for heart disease or stroke. But there are findings showing a possible link. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the U.S. Surgeon General, there may be a link between long-term (chronic) oral infections and heart disease.
First, be aware of these possible warning signs of gum disease:
Red, swollen, or sore gums
Bleeding while brushing or flossing
Gums that pull away from the teeth
Loose or separating teeth
Persistent bad breath
Healthy teeth and gums could help cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Although you can’t guarantee that you’ll never have a heart attack, you may be able to reduce your risk with daily brushing and flossing.
Most important, have a dental exam and cleaning twice a year, or as often as your dentist advises. This is vital because sometimes gum disease is invisible. If plaque isn't removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar. Even if you think you’re doing a great job flossing, plaque can still stay in your mouth. Only a dental professional can remove the tartar and plaque that you may miss.
For those with heart disease, the American Heart Association has some advice. First, establish and maintain a healthy mouth. Practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. Second, make sure your dentist knows that you have a heart problem. Ask your provider if you need a bacterial endocarditis wallet card. Third, carefully follow your healthcare provider’s and dentist’s instructions when they prescribe special medicines such as antibiotics.
The good news is that gum disease is preventable. And if you have gum disease, it can be treated.
Publication Source:Staywell Publications/Fall 2006
Online Source:American Heart Association. Infective Endocarditis
Online Source:Gum Disease, American Dental Association
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2021
Date Last Modified: 1/30/2021
Date Posted: 6/15/2023
People with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease than people with healthy gums.
Gum disease occurs when too many bacteria are thriving in the mouth. Gum disease is linked with an increased risk for heart disease. This may be because of overall increased inflammation.
Here’s what you can do to keep your gums healthy and protect your heart:
Brush and floss your teeth every day.
See your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.
Let your dentist know whether you have heart disease—you may need antibiotics before certain dental treatments. Most people with heart disease don't need antibiotics before dental work. But people with prosthetic heart valves or valve repairs do. So do people with a history of heart infection (endocarditis) or certain congenital heart conditions (even after surgical repair).
See your dentist if you have bleeding or tender gums.
If you smoke, get help to stop. This can prevent inflammation and heart disease.
If you chew tobacco, get help to stop. This will preserve healthy gum tissue and good oral hygiene.
Publication Source:Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease: Does the Evidence Support an Independent Association?: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Lockhart Peter B. Circulation (2012) 125:20 pp. 2520-2544.
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
Date Last Modified: 2/26/2021
Date Posted: 6/15/2023