The question has often arisen of whether or not tooth decay and gum disease could lead to other medical problems, especially heart disease. The simple answer is generally yes, poor dental hygiene can lead to a heart condition.

 Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

Parmer Lane Family Dentistry in Austin TX Tooth decay is the beginning of gum disease. It’s caused by damage and thinning of the enamel. Plaque is a normal part of teeth that comes from foods and drinks with sugars and carbohydrates. The bacteria from the plaque release the acids that thin and attack the enamel, making teeth weaker and more susceptible to decay. This plaque buildup can lead to various types of gum disease that can progress in severity over time. If the gum disease progresses to its most severe form, the gum tissues start to pull away from the teeth, making room for bacteria to eat away at the root of the teeth, gums, and bone.

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 Heart Disease and Tooth Decay

The two main problems associated with poor dental hygiene are endocarditis and coronary artery disease. Endocarditis is a rare condition that happens within the heart lining, affecting the heart valves. This is an inflammatory condition that can be quite dangerous to high-risk patients. Coronary artery disease is another inflammatory heart condition that occurs when plaque or bad cholesterol buildup clog the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The link between heart disease and tooth decay is related to the bacteria that is caused by the plaque. When the teeth are not sufficiently cared for and cleaned, the bacteria causes decay and spreads into the bloodstream, thereby putting all other systems, especially the cardiovascular system, in danger.

Generally speaking, endocarditis is much less likely and would depend on the patient’s history and overall health; however, coronary artery disease is very commonly linked to poor oral hygiene, and heart doctors have been advised to ask patients about any previous or current gum disease to assess risk.

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 Early Signs of Tooth Decay

Early signs of tooth decay to look out for include:

  • Toothaches
  • Gum swelling near a painful or tender tooth
  • Bad breath and bad taste in the mouth
  • Discolored spots on the teeth

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Tooth decay in and of itself can be a very painful and uncomfortable; however, the bacteria that spreads from poor oral hygiene can have dangerous health consequences. It’s important to brush and floss twice daily, as well as get regular dental checkups and cleaning.

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