The Importance of Oral Health to Overall Health

    Warning Signs in the Mouth Can Save Lives

    Oral Health and Heart Disease Facts

    Signs of Gum Disease

Warning Signs in the Mouth Can Save Lives

Heart disease will claim more than half a million lives this year. Most adults know heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans, however a consumer survey reveals 60 percent don't know that a sore or painful jaw is one warning sign that may indicate an impending heart attack, reports the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Educating consumers on the link between oral and overall health, including warning signs in the mouth that may indicate a larger health problem, can help save lives," says AGD spokesperson E. Mac Edington, DDS, MAGD, ABGD.

Oral Health and Heart Disease Facts

Research shows over 90 percent of all systemic diseases ? including heart disease ? have oral symptoms. A sore or painful jaw could indicate an impending heart attack or heart disease, making biannual visits to the dentist an important investment in one's oral as well as overall health.

Regular dental examinations are crucial for patients with a history of heart disease to check for any signs of oral pain, infection or inflammation. "I've helped patients with heart conditions by diagnosing dental problems that were causing local infections," says Dr. Edington. "By eliminating a local infection involving a tooth or the gums, patients have been able to decrease blood pressure medications and improve overall health."

Communication with your dentist and doctor is critical in the proper diagnosis and treatment of all diseases, especially heart disease, since the longer it goes untreated, the greater the risk of heart attack.

Conversely, treating a patient with a heart condition can exacerbate the problem if the patient does not share a complete medical history, including all medications they are taking.

Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease, often called gingivitis in its early stages, is caused by plaque buildup and affects an estimated 80 percent of American adults. Studies suggest that people who have gum disease are at a higher risk for heart attack. If bacteria in the infected gums dislodge, they can enter the bloodstream, attach to arterial plaque and may increase clot formation. Clots can decrease the blood supply to the heart, increasing the chance of a heart attack and raising blood pressure. Studies that find exactly how gum disease and heart disease are linked are still underway.

Signs of gum disease include bleeding, receding or puffy gums, bad breath, sores in the mouth or pus between gums and teeth. Preventing plaque buildup by brushing and flossing regularly helps minimize the chance for getting gum disease. Seeing your dentist every six months can help identify gum disease as well as overall health problems in their earliest stages.

Dentists know that your teeth and gums hold important clues to overall health and can work with you to reduce your risk and treat current health problems.

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Original content of this reprinted with permission of the Academy of General Dentistry. © Copyright 2007-2009 by the Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. Read the original article here.

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