You may know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but did you know your heart’s health is tied to your dental health? People with periodontal (gum) disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. While research has not yet found the direct link, there are several theories that may explain the link between heart disease, stroke, and periodontal disease.
When bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream, inflammation (the body’s natural response to infection) occurs. This leads to a narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis makes it difficult for blood to flow to and from your heart. This leads to heart disease and stroke.
Severe inflammation in the gum tissue is also related to elevated levels of C-reactive proteins that have been linked to heart disease.
According to the American Society for Microbiology, research has found that one specific bacterium linked to periodontitis, Streptococcus sanguis, spreads to the heart once it enters the body. This bacterium also plays a role in strokes. Additional research links the bacterium to thickening of the carotid (neck) arteries, which carry blood to the brain.
According to the American Association of Periodontology, you may have gum disease if:
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing any damage from periodontitis.
Good oral hygiene can prevent gum disease. Follow these steps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
To help manage the condition and improve oral health, HMSA’s Oral Health for Total Health program provides enhanced dental benefits for plan members who are diagnosed with heart disease. These benefits are covered 100% with no out-of-pocket expenses when seeing a participating provider.
Members with health and dental plans from HMSA who have a diagnosis of heart disease are enrolled automatically. Dental members who don’t have a health plan with HMSA can easily enroll online.
To use your Oral Health for Total Health benefits, simply make an appointment with your dentist. To find a dentist in your plan’s network, visit our provider directory.