• HEART HEALTH: GUM DISEASE AND HEART DISEASE: WHAT IS THE LINK?

  • REPRINT OF

    JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE HEALTH ALERT

    Published October 14, 2011

     

    “HEART HEALTH: GUM DISEASE AND HEART DISEASE: WHAT IS THE LINK?”

    What does the health of your gums have to do with your heart health?  The answer is plenty, according to a recent consensus statement from the editors of the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Peridontology.

    The editors presented evidence that people with periodontitis (gum disease) are more likely to have coronary heart disease (CHD) and its complications such as heart attack.  The reverse is also true: People with coronary heart disease tend to have gum disease.  Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risks.

    What’s the link?

    While the mechanism linking the two diseases is not fully understood, most experts suspect that chronic inflammation throughout the body plays a role.  Gum disease is a bacterial infection, and the body’s natural response to an infection is inflammation.  In turn, inflammation is an important risk factor for atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries).  In addition, people with gum disease have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the body that is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

    Certain bacteria found in the mouths of people with gum disease have also been found in plaques in the arteries.  How did it get there?  Experts hypothesize that bacteria in the mouth can enter the blood-stream through the nicks and cuts in unhealthy gums and travel to the arteries, where they stick to the plaques.  This causes more inflammation in the arteries that further spurs on atherosclerosis and promotes blood clot formation.

    Gum disease and coronary heart disease also share a number of risk factors, in particular smoking, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity and family history.  But people with gum disease are 24 to 34 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than people without gum disease, even after controlling those risk factors.

    Dr. Cunningham’s response:  This is very important information!  The link between periodontal disease and heart disease has been reinforced by many controlled scientific studies.  The good news is that 95% of periodontal disease can be controlled in our office non-surgically.   Our hygienists use techniques and medications that can keep your periodontal health under control.  The benefits to your health are huge.