Dental Health & Heart Disease
Dental Health & Heart Disease
Does Gum Periodontal Disease Affect Coronary Disease?
At first glance, there might seem to be no link between your oral health and the condition of your heart. However, an infection in your gums can indeed have serious cardiac consequences, especially after it has gone untreated for some time. As Dr. Mayo, the founder of the world famous Mayo Clinic, once said, “taking care of your teeth will add ten years to your life.”
Researchers have backed this up with a number of solid studies. Their discovery is that that the constant influx of infection products, chemicals, and bacteria from periodontal gum disease and chronic decay directly affects your chance of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Gum disease and bad dental health increases the permeability of oral capillaries. This, in turn, boosts the uptake of bacteria and inflammation products (prostaglandins, bradykinins, lymphokines, etc.) into the bloodstream.
Another consequence is the buildup of fatty proteins in your arteries, causing them swell. As revealed by one study in the journal Circulation, higher levels of periodontal disease bacteria in the bloodstream are associated with thicker carotid arteries in older adults. Artery thickening increases blood pressure, lessens total blood flow, makes the heart work harder, and, frequently, sets the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
An additional study, published in the prestigious Journal of Periodontology, showed that cardiac patients suffered from periodontal disease more frequently than people without cardiac problems. The study went on to describe how periodontal disease appears to worsen the severity of coronary artery disease, which is caused by hardening and narrowing of the arteries, again setting the stage for potentially fatal strokes and heart attacks.
Yet another mechanism suggests why periodontal disease should have such a profound, and rather unexpected, effect on your heart health. Though not universally accepted by all researchers, this line of inquiry posits that oral bacteria attach to fatty proteins in the arteries, causing them to clump.
Anti-inflammatory proteins are released into the blood due to oral infection, too, increasing the available pool of fatty proteins present. These can either become deposited on the artery walls, thickening them and restricting blood flow, or can serve as the seeds for blood clots, which can trigger dangerous thrombosis if they travel to the lung, heart, or obstruct the flow of blood to the brain. Arteriosclerosis and hardening of the arteries is them related to dental disease!
Clearly, maintaining your oral health is one of several major keys to keeping your heart healthy and increasing your overall lifespan. Additional study is likely to make the connection even clearer, underlining the need for quick, competent dental care as soon as a tooth goes “bad.”