If You See This in Your Mouth, Your Heart Attack Risk Is High, Study Says

New research has found a connection between your mouth and your heart.

Heart health is major concern for most of us—especially since heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, our heart isn't something we can easily check in on from time to time, without the help of a medical professional and extensive imaging scans. But there may be one way for you to monitor your heart health without ever even leaving your home. According to a recent study, if you see this in your mouth, your heart attack risk could be high. Keep reading to find out what your mouth can tell you about your heart health, and for more warning signs, If You Have This Blood Type, Your Heart Attack Risk Is Higher, Study Says.

If you have gum disease, you have a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Male dentist examining teeth of patient on chair. Woman is visiting doctor for dental checkup. They are in clinic.
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Researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and the Forsyth Institute came together to create a study looking at how gum disease plays a part in major cardiovascular events, like heart attacks. Their study, which was published Jan. 29 in the Journal of Periodontology, used PET and CT scans from 304 participants to measure the inflammation in the arteries and gums of each patient. After following up with each patient four years later, the researchers found that 13 individuals developed major adverse cardiovascular events, like a heart attack. According to the study, the presence of active gum disease (seen by inflamed gums) was an early, predictive risk factor in patients who went on to experience a heart attack. And for more on gum disease, If Your Gums Tend to Bleed, You May Be Lacking This Vitamin, Study Says.

Researchers say this is the result of active gum disease.

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According to the study, individuals with signs of bone loss from previous cases of gum disease were not at increased risk of experiencing a major adverse cardiovascular event as long as they did not have ongoing inflammation. "This is very definitely related to people who have currently active inflammatory disease," co-author Thomas Van Dyke, DDS, senior member of staff at Forsyth, said in a statement. According to the researchers, active gum inflammation likely triggers the inflammation of arteries, which plays a role in heart attacks, per the American Heart Association (AHA). And for more to pay attention to in your mouth, If You Notice This in Your Mouth, You Could Have COVID, Experts Warn.

Millions of people suffer from gum disease in the U.S.

Dentist with male patient presenting discussing dental problems x-ray image film in dental office
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Experiencing gum disease is very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gum disease (or periodontitis) affects more than 47 percent of adults aged 30 or older in some way. And this risk only increases with age, as the agency reports that more than 70 percent of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease. This is directly in line with the risk of heart attack, which is much more likely for people 65 years or older, according to the National Institute on Aging. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

If you notice your gums bleeding when brushing your teeth, you may have gum disease.

Woman looking in the mirror and brushing her teeth, ways you're damaging teeth
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One of the first signs you have gum disease is bleeding when you brush your teeth, per WebMD. Alongside redness and swelling, this is a sign that your gums are infected and inflamed. To help treat this and control your infection, you need to visit a dentist. As Erik Sahl, DDS, assistant professor of periodontics at Loma Linda University, explained to WebMD, your doctor will perform a deep cleaning which goes under the gum line to treat gum disease. And to prevent gum disease altogether, the American Academy of Periodontology says you should maintain a healthy daily dental routine. This includes brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash. And for more your dentist would want you to know, This Is What Happens If You Don't Brush Your Teeth for a Day, Study Shows.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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