Gum Disease and Its Link To Heart Disease

Patients with gum disease can be almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease

Can gum disease affect your heart’s health? The latest studies are suggesting so. Scientists have found that people with gum disease can be almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as healthy patients1.  Other studies have shown that having common problems in oral health, such as gum disease, can be as good of a predictor of heart disease as cholesterol levels2.

More than half of all people over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease, but many still do not realize the serious health risks that have been associated with having oral health problems. For the past 80 years, heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death in the US3.  Much research has shown that a link between gum disease and heart problems exists, but we currently do not understand how this relationship actually works. Two predominant theories exist to help explain the link between gum disease and your heart’s health1,2:

  1. When bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, it begins to attach to plaque found on the walls of the coronary arteries. As bacteria and plaque continuously build up, the arteries can become obstructed. Normal nutrient & blood flow is restricted, placing the patient at an increased of heart attack.
  2. Another theory involves the body’s natural immune response to disease. When oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, a low-grade inflammatory response may occur. When bacteria reach the heart, inflammation & swelling of the arterial cells may occur. This can cause the arteries to narrow and increase the patient’s risk of heart disease.

People with gum disease have been shown to be at increased risk of heart disease, but scientists are still unsure of how the diseases interact, and cannot definitively say if one leads to the other. Until this research becomes available, patients with gum disease should try to reduce their risk factors and take preventive measures at an earlier stage in life, including regular dental hygiene visits and annual periodontal assessments. Routine things like these can be key components in receiving high-quality oral care and may even improve your overall health.

  1. American Academy of Periodontology
  2. WebMD: Periodontal Disease and Heart Health
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevalence of Heart Disease—United States, 2005.

Image via: Wiki Commons

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