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  • Writer's pictureRob Powell

How is Gum Disease Related to Heart Disease?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

The following article is presented by the team at Dentista Dental Centre, your choice for Morley Dentist.

A healthy set of gums being examined at the dentist
Looking After your Gums is just as Important as looking after your Teeth

Gum Disease Heart Disease Correlation

You may have heard that there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. It is in fact true that there is a gum disease heart disease correlation. At first glance, this might seem a bit of a far stretch, intuitively there doesn't seem to be much in common between the two. So how is it that people with gum disease (periodontal disease) have 2 to 3 times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event? Gum Disease Heart Disease, Delve a little deeper however, and current research shows that the link between the two is strong. In fact, oral bacteria has consistently been found in fatty deposits with those who suffer from atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside ones arteries, hardening over time and narrowing arteries. So what is the link between the two? What is the gum disease heart disease correlation? The answer is inflammation.


Although in 2021, inflammation seems to be one of the buzzwords, it's not without reason. Inflammation is, according to webmd, a process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. In layman terms, inflammation, or swelling is the body's response to some sort of threat, whether that be perceived or actual, from a foreign invader, an injury or an illness. Most of us would know of this when we have injured ourselves in the past. If for example, you may have in the past, fallen over and banged your knee, you would have noticed the 5 signs of inflammation;

  1. Swelling

  2. Redness

  3. Heat

  4. Loss of function

  5. Pain

What you may not know however, is the same process can happen internally within the body. Just like on the outside, when the body uses inflammation to internal organs, those same signs also occur. Chronic inflammation, that being inflammation that has been building up over a long time, can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease. One such internal area where it is somewhat easier to visually see the signs of internal inflammation is in the gums, ie gingivitis.


So gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums which as we have learned, must be the immune's response to some sort of threat. So the question begs, what causes the immune response to cause this gingivitis. The answer to this is plaque! Yes plaque, that slimy stuff which gets on our teeth after a while of not brushing them. So how can plaque cause this? Didn't we say that immune responses to inflammation only come from injuries, illnesses and threats from outside invaders? Is plaque one of these 3? Well as it turns out... YES!

Plaque is actually colonising bacteria which naturally forms on our teeth. When we brush our teeth, we are actually brushing off this bacteria. If we don't do this regularly, or brush our teeth regularly but miss spots, such as between the teeth or at the gum level, then the bacteria will mix with the saliva and minerals in it to form Tartar, which is a hardened substance which forms on the teeth. This tartar is a mix of minerals from the saliva and toxins such as the dead bacteria. The response from our body to both the plaque, but even more so to the tartar and toxins associated with it, is to create an immune response. To find out more and see some pictures visit our Gum Care page. The immune response as we have discussed in the body is... inflammation.

The immune response in the body, aka inflammation, causes those reactions that we have discussed which are commonly associated with the inflammation that you would see from a bruise that has become inflamed. The classic inflammation symptoms of gingivitis are

  1. bright red or purple gums

  2. tender gums which could be painful

  3. bleeding from the gums when brushing your teeth or flossing

  4. bad breath

  5. inflamed or swollen gums

  6. soft gums

  7. receding gums

Gingivitis is gum disease in its early stages. These symptoms are signs that you may have gum disease in its early stages.

The Escalation to Gum Disease

Gingivitis, if treated, can be reversed and a patient can return to normal dental health. If gingivitis is left untreated however, it can lead to more serious problems such as periodontitis. Read more about periodontisis and the role of the body's immune system here. Periodontitis, is caused by the chronic inflammation of the gums. Eventually after being inflamed for an extended period of time, the inner layers of the gum start to come away from the teeth themselves. This forms 'pockets' on either side of the teeth. These pockets in turn, also start to build up toxins and tartar themselves, in turn exacerbating the process and causing infection to get into the gums. The gums can shrink and the pockets become deeper and deeper. At this stage the immune system of the body is really in overdrive and the gums are really inflamed. At the same time those bacteria which are causing the immune response are in the gums and causing the inflammation are able to cross into your bloodstream!

The link from Gum Disease to Heart Disease

In our current example, we have seen how long term or chronic inflammation can cause damage to the body's soft tissue such as gums. This is true to the body as a whole. Whilst inflammation helps us in the short term, such as the bruising and swelling of a banged knee will help the knee repair and become healthy in the short term, over the long term, or chronically, just like the gums, the arteries and heart can be damaged by inflammation.

As stated, the bacteria that are present in the gums, can cross over into the bloodstream. Once this occurs, this bacteria will traverse the arteries and eventually go through the heart. As we know, there is a different type of plaque that resides in arteries, built up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances. Researchers, such as from a study from the University of Florida (University Of Florida. "Live Oral Bacteria Found In Arterial Plaque." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2005.), were able to show certain types of oral bacteria were able to live inside arterial plaque. These and other studies were important to showing the link between gum disease and heart disease. Just like in the gums, the body's immune response of inflammation will occur in those arteries, and just like in the gum example, a chronic or extended version of this inflammation can lead to some serious and unwanted health issues.

So we can see the gum disease heart disease connection... whilst as of yet, there is no direct cause on its own, of gum disease causing heart disease, it does add as a factor in determining one's cardiovascular health. Gum disease is often a co factor with other factors such as smoking, obesity, cholesterol and other lifestyle factors which can lead to heart disease.

Visit Your Dentist

So how do you treat gum disease? Ideally you want treatment for gum disease in its early stages. If you experience gingivitis, or have experienced symptoms of gingivitis then it is recommended you visit a dentist soon to get this checked out. Treatment for gingivitis from a qualified dentist can be both simple and effective. This combined with brushing twice a day and flossing can largely prevent gingivitis and gum disease. To see how to brush your teeth and floss your teeth correctly, see our videos here and here. There are adjunctive products such as chlorhexidine mouth wash and gels than can help in treating the acute phases of gum disease. It should be stressed however that this should not be the go to treatment for gum disease. Physical removal of the plaque and tartar are the most effective and efficient ways to treat gum disease. It is recommended that you visit your dentist every 6 months for a scale and clean with checkup to ensure healthy oral hygiene. If you have active gum disease, you may benefit from 3-4 monthly cleans.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, and the symptoms have been going on for some time, then it is imperative that you go and see your dentist straight away for treatment. Gum disease is curable in its early stages, ie gingivitis, but unfortunately once the pockets have formed and periodontitis gum disease has set in, this cannot be reversed. That is to say once there has been bone loss from gum disease, the bone will not ever grow back. Treatment can be provided by your dentist though to try and stop any further damage to your gum support... and potentially your heart!

Stay tuned to our website Dentista for more news about your dental health in problems.

Dentista Dental for your choice of Morley Dentist and Noranda Dentist.

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