Gingivitis: This common condition could increase your risk of heart attack

Have you ever spit out blood while brushing your teeth? It could be a sign that your heart is in trouble.

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We’ve all experienced bleeding gum at least once while brushing our teeth. It’s a relatively normal occurrence which is sometimes caused by a mild form of gum disease, or periodontal disease, called gingivitis. While there’s very little to worry about if you see a bit of blood in your bathroom sink, medical professionals believe that you should take precautionary measures nonetheless. Because if you begin developing severe forms of periodontitis, it may cause trouble for your heart.

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What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is an infection of the gums that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. As reported by Mayo Clinic, if the condition is left untreated, it can cause teeth to loosen up or fall out completely. Symptoms of periodontitis include gums that are inflamed, red or purple in colour, and sensitive to touch. You could also be infected if you have pain chewing food, bad breath or if your gums bleed easily.

Gingivitis is a very common, but mild form of the disease, which is easily preventable, treatable, and curable. All you need to do is brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Experts also recommend getting regular dental checkups to reduce your risk of developing gum disease.

Unlike gingivitis, more severe forms of periodontitis cannot be cured, but it can be treated.

How is periodontitis linked to heart disease?

There are several studies that have found that poor oral health could result in an increased risk of getting a cardiovascular problem, like a stroke and heart attack. The theory is that the bacteria which causes gum disease also has the ability to travel to blood vessels in other parts of the body. Robert H. Shmerling, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, wrote on Harvard Health Publishing:

The bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis and periodontitis also travel to blood vessels elsewhere in the body where they cause blood vessel inflammation and damage; tiny blood clots, heart attack and stroke may follow.

A study conducted in Sweden found that an increased severity of periodontitis resulted in increased chances of ‘experiencing a cardiovascular event.’ They took into account data from 1,578 participants of which 985 patients were health, 489 had periodontitis and 113 had severe periodontitis. Dr. Giulia Ferrannini, the author of the study, concluded:

The risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event during follow-up was higher in participants with periodontitis, increasing in parallel with the severity.
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