Recent studies indicate that a correlation does indeed exist. There are several studies that suggest that poor oral health and gum disease in particular, are related to serious conditions like heart disease.

Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream by attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contribute to clot formation. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.

Atherosclerosis, also called “hardening of the arteries,” develops when deposits of fats and other substances in your blood begin to stick to the sides of your arteries. These deposits, called plaques, can build up and narrow your arteries. If these plaques block the blood flow completely, a heart attack or stroke could occur depending on the location of the blockage.

Inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.

Can preventive dentistry help to reduce my risk of heart disease?

Information presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida indicates that there is an association between preventive dentistry and cardiovascular risk reduction. The authors of one study conducted in Taiwan which included more than 100,000 people over a seven year period reported that professional tooth scaling appears to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Tooth scaling is the procedure of scraping away bacterial plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the tooth, especially from the root surfaces below the gum line.

The authors of the study selected 51,108 adults with no history of myocardial infarction or stroke who had received full or partial mouth scaling at least once, and compared them with another 51,512 matched subjects according to age, gender and co-morbidities with no history of myocardial infarction and stroke and did not receive mouth scaling.

During an average follow-up period of 7 years with a total of 102,620 patients enrolled, the 51,108 patients that received tooth mouth scaling had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and a 13% lower risk of stroke compared with those who had never had a tooth mouth scaling. The statistics showed that patients with tooth scaling have significantly higher acute myocardial infarction-free and high stroke-free survival rates. The study statistics also showed that tooth scaling was the independent factor associated with less risk of developing future heart attacks and stroke.

Does a diagnosis of periodontal disease mean I am more susceptible to cardiovascular disease?

Not exactly; however, one report found that the type of periodontal disease appeared to predict the risk for heart attack or heart failure. Some suggest that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease (gingivitis), cavities, and even missing teeth, could be effective at predicting heart disease. The inflammatory markers of periodontal disease may predict cardiovascular disorders in different ways, thus, suggesting that they could be used as risk indicators for the three most common cardiovascular disorders: heart failure, myocardial infarction and stroke.

While there is no question that there appears to be a connection between periodontal disease and heart attacks and strokes, the exact relationship isn’t exactly clear. Many experts agree that further studies are needed.

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