If you have puffy, reddish tender gums that bleed easily when you brush your teeth, you may have gingivitis. Chronic gingivitis is fairly common and often ignored. However, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) recently highlighted a University of Sydney study that shows long-term gingvitis may significantly affect your heart health – even if you’re a young adult.
What is gingvitis?
Gingivitis is a common oral condition that is a mild form of gum disease. It’s occurs when mature bacterial plaque accumulates on your teeth. This in turn, irritates the surrounding gum area called the gingiva – triggering an immune response and inflammation of the affected gum tissue.
How does gum inflammation affect heart health?
According to the lead author of the Australian study, Professor Joerg Eberhard, accumulated plaque causes an inflammatory process that plays a critical role in the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
The Australian researchers tested a group of healthy non-smoking young adults with no cardiovascular risk factors. A sample of the group was instructed to not brush a specific quadrant of their tooth surfaces for three weeks. The results were surprising.
The sample participants with poor oral hygiene experienced gum inflammation that had spread to other parts of the body thus becoming systemic inflammation. Additionally, during these inflammation events, they had elevated levels of C-reactive protein which is a major risk marker for heart attacks.
Proper oral hygiene may reduce heart risk factors
Fortunately, once the group resumed brushing all their teeth, their C-reactive protein levels returned to normal after seven days. They essentially reversed the onset of their inflammatory cardiovascular symptoms just by practicing good oral hygiene.
Eberhard, J., Grote, K., Luchtefeld, M., Heuer, W., Schuett, H., Divchev, D., Scherer, R., Schmitz-Streit, R., Langfeldt, D., Stumpp, N., Staufenbiel, I., Schieffer, B. and Stiesch, M., 2013. Experimental Gingivitis Induces Systemic Inflammatory Markers in Young Healthy Individuals: A Single-Subject Interventional Study. PLoS ONE, 8(2), p.e55265.