A Curious Connection: Guys, Gum Disease, and Heart Health
Last month on the blog we honored Women’s Health Week with a post dedicated to oral health issues specific to women. Well guys, now it’s your turn! June 11 to 17 is National Men’s Health Week, so we’re here to talk all things oral health and the role it plays in heart disease (yes, they’re connected).
A good place for us to begin is with gum disease. Males typically have higher rates of gum disease than women- compare 34% of males ages 30 to 54 to 23% of women. Similar trends are apparent in men ages 55 to 90. Here’s a quick refresher for those of us wondering why gum disease is serious business when it comes to overall health:
1. Irregular brushing and flossing can lead to a build-up of bacteria around gums.
2. Bacteria turns into plaque and eventually calcifies into tartar.
3. Activate stage 1 gum disease- As the gums irritate and inflame, pockets between the teeth and gums open allowing bacteria to seep below the gum line and enter the body’s bloodstream.
When it comes to heart disease, inflamed gums can affect blood vessels throughout the body. Inflammation breaks down connective tissues and starts the build up of arterial plaque. Because heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States and one in three men are likely to develop it, this is especially important.
Men might experience dry mouth as a side effect of medications they take for heart disease. Saliva helps wash away bacteria and food debris. Less saliva means an increased risk for cavities and, yes, gum disease, so in some ways it’s a perpetuating cycle.
So what can you do to lessen these risks? Men don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to dental hygiene – statistics say that men will lose 5.4 of their teeth by age 72 (not a good look, guys). Simply remembering to brush, floss, and schedule bi-annual teeth cleanings with your dentist will protect your teeth, overall health, and your best feature to boot.