What you need to know about vascular disease and your oral health
When most people hear the word “plaque,” they think of the scaly buildup that can accumulate on the surface of their teeth. However, another type of plaque can build up in your body, lining the walls of your arteries and leading to severe health complications and even death.
What is vascular disease?
Human bodies run on a complex system of blood vessels that circulate blood. When these vessels become damaged or clogged, your blood can’t circulate properly, starving different areas of your body of nutrients and oxygen.
One common cause of vascular disease is the accumulation of plaque. This arterial plaque develops when debris gets stuck to the arterial lining and even penetrates the arterial wall. Waste products such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances form a sticky lining inside the arteries, narrowing the opening and reducing the amount of blood that can flow through. Where the plaque accumulates determines the condition it causes.
- Plaque that builds up in the arteries in and around the heart cause coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
- Angina can occur if the arteries leading to the heart become narrowed.
- When the carotid artery, which is located in the neck and supplies the brain with blood, becomes affected by plaque, a person can suffer from carotid artery disease.
- Peripheral artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply the arms and legs experience plaque buildup.
- If the blood vessels in the brain become clogged with plaque, a person may suffer a stroke.
It’s important to note that what’s happening one one artery of your body is usually happening in all of your arteries.
Obviously, plaque accumulation and vascular disease can be a severe and life-threatening condition that affects the entire body.
How is vascular disease related to oral health?
You’ve probably been reminded to brush your teeth ever since you were a child. What most people don’t realize is that their oral care routine affects far more than their sparkling white smile. Periodontal disease causes inflammation and infection in your gums, and the bacteria that accumulate in your mouth enter your bloodstream and end up causing inflammation in the cells of your arteries and attaching themselves as plaque on your arterial walls.
Many people who suffer from gum disease don’t even realize they have it, making it an extremely dangerous condition. There are often no warning signs until the infection has progressed to seriously high levels. Because of this, you could go years with a constant flow of harmful bacteria entering your bloodstream (and, therefore, your arteries) without ever knowing it, putting you at considerable risk for a whole host of serious conditions and diseases.
What can I do to prevent vascular disease?
Fortunately, dentists are highly skilled at identifying risk factors for developing vascular disease and arterial plaque. During your regular checkup, your dental health care providers will inspect your mouth for the following signs and symptoms:
- Red, swollen, or sore gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Pus or apparent signs of infection on your gums or around your teeth
- A gap between your teeth and gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
When detected early, your dentist can treat infections immediately using antibiotics and oral rinses and help you implement an oral care routine that will prevent future issues and reduce your risk factors for more dangerous complications.
Being proactive about your oral health by thoroughly cleaning your teeth regularly, eating a healthy diet, and making regular trips to your dentist will go a long way toward reducing plaque buildup on your arterial walls and helping prevent the detrimental effects of vascular disease.
Many medical doctors don’t realize the crucial role that our oral health plays in the wellbeing of our entire bodies. When you support The Dental Medical Convergence, you are lending your voice to advocating for a stronger and more educated relationship between medical doctors and dentists. Not only will this enhance our general knowledge of the body as a whole, but it will also help millions of people around the world improve their general health and oral hygiene. Contact us today for more information or to donate to this worthy cause.