The Connection between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Disease

Yet another study points to dental health, or the lack thereof, as an indicator for other more serious health conditions, according to the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

The links between oral health and overall health are piling up. Study after study is proving that what was once a theory is now an overwhelming fact. Individuals with serious gum disease are 40% more likely to have a chronic condition on top of it.

“Physicians are taking a much more holistic approach to their patients’ overall health,” says Dr. Cram, DDS, PC, and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. Studies are now looking into the connections between oral diseases and the numerous cardiovascular diseases that were not imagined 20 years ago.

The latest study conducted by the ESC reported on the dental health of more than 15,000 patients with chronic coronary heart disease. The results showed, unsurprisingly, that most of these patients also had periodontal disease.

Understanding the Connection

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease or gingivitis, begins with bacterial buildup in the form of plaque causing the gums to become inflamed and bleed easily, such as during brushing.

This is important to understand because it is this bacteria that eventually lead to an infection that spreads or exacerbates other serious diseases.

Inflammation, caused by the buildup of plaque, releases chemicals that over time eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold your teeth in place. The result is gum disease and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

Although the reasons are not fully understood, it is clear that gum disease and heart disease go hand in hand. Both conditions have several risk factors in common such as smoking, unhealthy diet and obesity. Some even blame periodontitis as having a direct role in raising the risk for heart disease.

“The theory is that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels,” says Cram. This can increase the risk for heart attack in a number of ways. Inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, raising blood pressure. “There’s also a greater risk that fatty plaque will break off the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke,” Cram explains.

Other diseases such as diabetes have a more obvious relationship with Periodontitis. Inflammation of the gums seems to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar.

“Periodontal disease further complicates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin,” says Pamela McClain, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. High blood sugar also provides the ideal conditions for infections to grow, including gum infections, implying that managing one condition will help bring the other under control.

Results of the Study

The report conducted by the ESC was published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology. 15,828 participants from 39 countries, all with chronic coronary heart disease, provided information on their dental health. All participants had a physical examination and blood testing as well as completed a lifestyle questionnaire.

The results showed 16% of participants having no teeth and 41% having fewer than 15 teeth remaining. 26% of patients reported gum bleeding while brushing their teeth. This high overall prevalence of tooth loss and gum bleeding, all indicators of periodontal disease, point to the important connection between the two diseases.

Upon analyzing these statistics, researchers found that those patients experiencing tooth loss were significantly more likely to have higher fasting glucose levels, LDL cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure and waist circumference.

“The evident and consistent relationship between self-reported dental status and cardiovascular disease risk in this population could point towards periodontal disease being a risk factor for incident coronary heart disease,” says lead author Dr Ola Vedin from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

“It is still a matter of debate whether periodontal disease is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. Some studies point to a moderate association while others are contradictory. Our findings show an association between self-reported periodontal disease and several cardiovascular risk factors and as such lend support to a possible association between the conditions.”

Plaque is easy enough to combat and the implications regarding your overall health are not to be taken lightly. If left alone, plaque buildup will harden becoming tartar. Once it hardens, you’ll need Dr Hall’s help to remove it. Brushing every day, flossing, using mouth rinses and drinking water as well as regular dental visits will all go a long way to fight gum disease. Come in and make an appointment with Dr Hall today.

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