Periodontal disease, heart
disease and stroke may seem to be unlikely bedfellows, but researchers
have found that gum disease sufferers are nearly twice as likely to also
suffer from coronary heart disease. In addition, research studies have
discovered that oral infection is indeed a risk factor for stroke.
People diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to
also be experiencing some degree of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a
progressive condition in which the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth
is infected by the colonization of bacteria. Bacteria found in plaque
colonize first above, then below the g gumline causing the tissue to
pull away from the teeth. If periodontal disease is left untreated,
deep pockets form between the gums and the teeth and the tissue of the
underlying jawbone is also destroyed. The destruction of bone tissue
causes the teeth to shift, wobble or completely detach from the bone.
Coronary heart disease occurs
when the walls of the coronary arteries become progressively thicker due
to the buildup of fatty proteins. The heart then suffers from a lack
of oxygen and must labor significantly harder to pump blood to the rest
of the body. Coronary heart disease sufferers sometimes experience
blood clots which obstruct normal blood flow and reduce the amount of
vital nutrients and oxygen the heart needs to function properly. This
phenomenon often leads to heart attacks.
Reasons for the Connection
There is little doubt that the
presence of periodontal disease can exacerbate existing heart
conditions. The periodontist and cardiologist generally work as a team
in order to treat individuals experiencing both conditions.
There are several theories
which may explain the link between heart disease, stroke and periodontal
disease, which include the following:
Oral bacteria affect the heart
– There are many different strains of periodontal bacteria.
Researchers assert that some of these strains of bacteria enter the
bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels
(coronary arteries). This attachment then contributes to clot formation
causing grave danger to the individual.
– Periodontal disease causes severe inflammation in the gum tissue
which elevates the white blood cell count and also the high sensitivity
C-reactive protein levels. Research studies have shown that elevated
levels of C-reactive proteins have been linked to heart disease.
– Individuals who experience particularly high levels of oral bacteria
may have weaker immune systems and an inadequate host inflammatory
response. These factors may induce specific vascular effects which have
previously been shown to contribute in the onset of certain forms of
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since periodontal disease
appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is
extremely important to seek immediate treatment. Initially, the
periodontist will conduct thorough examinations to assess the exact
condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone. X-rays can be helpful in
determining whether bone loss is prevalent in the upper and lower jaw.
The dentist is able to conduct
deep cleaning treatments such as scaling and root planing to remove
hardened calculus (tartar) deposits from the gum pockets. An antibiotic
may be prescribed to ensure that the bacterium is completely destroyed
and the periodontal infection does not spread. In most cases,
periodontal disease can be prevented with regular cleanings and proper
If you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its
relation to heart disease and stroke, please ask your dentist.
You are welcome to schedule an appointment today!