Researches have long noted a link between heart disease and gum disease, or periodontitis. By heart disease, this article is referring to atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in blood vessel walls that can cause heart attacks. Whether one condition causes the other or contributes to an increased risk has not yet been determined. There are several theories currently being studied and explored.
The fact is that people with gum disease are much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown they are 2-3 times more likely to suffer these health conditions as those without gum disease.
Is it poor general health?
The first question researches ask is whether people with poor oral health are more likely to have heart disease because their overall health is poor. In other words, if they don’t take good care of their mouths, do they neglect the health of their bodies in ways known to contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease?
The answer is no. Taking into account poor oral health indicated by tooth loss, there is no relationship at all with heart disease.
Is it bacteria?
One theory of why more people with gum disease have heart disease is that bacteria from the infection of the gums enter the bloodstream and cause blood vessel damage and inflammation. This makes sense at first, but treatment with antibiotics does not affect the correlation between gum disease and heart disease.
Is it systemic inflammation, then?
Inflammation plays an important role in the body’s immune response. When the inflammation does not subside because of factors – including chronic infection – it can cause serious health issues. Among the conditions caused or worsened by chronic infection is the build-up of plaque in the arteries, or atherosclerosis. The way to test this theory is to eliminate inflammation in subjects with both gum disease and heart disease and measure the result.
An experiment tested the role of inflammation
A study conducted by Forsyth Instituteperiodontist Dr. Hatice Hasturk on rabbits came to just this conclusion. These rabbits had high cholesterol levels in their blood, similar to those found in people with heart disease. When the bacteria that cause gum disease were introduced to some subjects, they were more likely to show preliminary signs of cardiac events. When the inflammation in the subjects’ gums was treated with a topical medicine, inflammation and plaque in the arteries was reduced. In light of these results, a topical treatment for people with gum disease is being developed for testing.
Scientists are close to discovering the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. Before there is a definite answer, taking care of your teeth is always a good way to prevent gum disease and other dental and oral problems that can affect your whole body. Other factors certainly come into play when determining risk for heart attack and stroke, including diet, exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol. Getting regular check-ups and professional cleanings at your dentist’s office gives you an excellent start in keeping teeth and gums healthy. Your dentist can also answer any questions or concerns.
If you live in the Las Vegas area, trust the team at Dedicated Dental to care for your oral health. Since 2006 they have treated patients ages four and up at their office in Henderson, Nevada. For an appointment, call (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff today!