By Dr. Kenneth J. Polke

Gum disease is one of the most common types of oral health issues. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and other dental problems.

What you may not know is that gum disease has been linked to many serious health conditions, including heart disease.

One study found that if you have moderate or advanced gum disease, you are more likely to have heart issues than people with healthy gums. According to some experts, chronic gum disease can also increase your chances of a heart attack.

Heart attacks are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the heart. Blood clots form inside the body following a series of chemical interactions. Researchers believe that that some of the bacteria that causes gum disease can trigger the formation of these clots.

Your mouth contains large amounts of different types of bacteria. When the bacteria combines with other particles in your mouth, it creates a sticky substance on your teeth (above and below the gum line) called plaque. Hardened plaque is called tartar.

When plaque and tartar remain on your teeth for long periods of time, it causes gingivitis, a type of gum infection, and the first stage of periodontitis (gum disease).

Periodontitis literally means ?inflammation around the tooth?. The inflammation (redness and swelling) is the body?s response to the bacterial infection. Eventually, your gums will also start to bleed.

When any part of your body bleeds, the blood is leaking through an opening in a blood vessel. When the bleeding occurs in your mouth, bacteria can pass through this opening and enter the bloodstream, where it can start forming clots.

Regular brushing, flossing and dental cleanings can keep plaque from hardening on your teeth, and help you avoid gum disease. It can also keep your heart healthy.

Dr. Kenneth J. Polke is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He received his Bachelor?s degree from the University of Dayton, and went on to study dentistry at Case Western University Dental School. Kenneth Polke is also an NFL Alumni, having played in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins and as quarterback for the Cleveland Browns! While he still has a passion for football, he chooses to serve the needs of his patients at American Dental Excellence (, which he opened in 1981. Dr. Polke is an active member of many professional associations, including the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Dental Society of Anesthesiologists, and the International College of Oral Implantologists. He has a Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry, and is a Diplomat of the International College of Oral Implantologists. American Dental Excellence can be reached at 303-920-4900.

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