If you are taking care of your dental health, you could be doing more than just guaranteeing a great smile — you could also be protecting your heart. Research points to a likely connection between periodontal disease (commonly known as gum disease) and heart disease, says Dr. Joseph Leanza, Director of the new White Plains Hospital Dental Care, which opened in December 2023.
About 47 percent of people older than 30 are impacted by gum disease, which is characterized by a bacterial infection, according to the CDC. As Dr. Leanza explains, these bacteria can move through your bloodstream, generating inflammation in your blood vessels — particularly in your coronary arteries. The inflammation can make it easier for cholesterol and fats (also known as plaque) to stick to the insides of your arteries, which in turn could increase your risk for heart disease as well as a heart attack.
“Periodontal and cardiovascular disease have many risk factors in common, such as smoking, poor diet, and hypertension,” says Dr. Joshua Latzman, Cardiologist at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates. Modifying these risk factors, he states, is crucial for optimal oral and heart health.
There are also multiple ways to help reduce your risk of gum disease — and fight it if you’re already showing symptoms, such as gums bleeding when you brush or prolonged bad breath, says Dr. Leanza. The dental expert has been affiliated with White Plains Hospital for more than 25 years and is now practicing in a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility at 79 East Post Road in White Plains.
“The first step is to go to the dentist regularly for evaluation,” he says, adding that twice-a-year cleanings are recommended; in some cases, going three or four times a year, or seeing a specialist like a periodontist, may be necessary. Your dentist may also suggest advanced treatments like scaling — a more intense cleaning — which can help fight gum disease. In addition to routine exams and cleanings, White Plains Hospital Dental Care offers the full complement of dental services, including oral cancer screenings, X-rays, crowns and bridges, dentures, extractions, fillings, implants, and root canals.
Dr. Latzman also emphasizes that patients who have undergone heart valve surgery should take extra precaution prior to a dental visit. “The bacteria that is introduced from the mouth into the bloodstream during dental procedures can place those with prosthetic heart valves at risk for a condition known as endocarditis, so speak with your physician about whether you should take an antibiotic prior to a dentist visit,” he says.
Proper at-home care, including brushing and flossing, is equally as important. Dr. Leanza notes that your dental hygienist can recommend specific products, like a water flosser, or even certain toothpastes or oral rinses that can help specifically with gum disease.
“Prevention is always the best way to approach health issues,” says Dr. Leanza. “The earlier we start, the better, but it’s never too late to improve your dental health.”
To make an appointment at White Plains Hospital Dental Care, call 914-849-3488.