Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy Heart and a Happy Mouth: LInks between Periodontal Disease and Coronary Artery Disease

Everywhere you look this month companies and people are sporting red to support the American Heart Association's Heart Health month. Heart disease prevention and awareness is central to the theme of Valentine's Day. It's also important to note that a healthy smile leads to a healthy heart and visa versa.

The dental history of my own family is something that needs to be addressed- both my parents are scared of the dentist. My own history involves fear of the dentist and orthodontist; however with the links between heart disease and dental health-- I make it a point to see my dentist twice a year for regular check ups and cleanings. No fear is too large to prevent gum disease, tooth lose and heart disease.

What is interesting is a report I came across earlier that links gum disease directly to heart disease. 91% of patients with cardiovascular disease suffered from moderate to severe periodontitis (gum disease), while this proportion was 66% in the non-cardiac patients. This is an alarming fact and more people need to be paying attention to this link.


Periodontitis seems to influence the occurrence and the severity of coronary artery disease and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke, and the study proposes two hypotheses for this occurrence. One hypothesis is that periodontal pathogens could enter the bloodstream, invade the blood vessel walls and ultimately cause atherosclerosis. (Atherosclerosis is a multistage process set in motion when cells lining the arteries are damaged as a result of high blood pressure, smoking, toxic substances, and other agents.)

Your Dentist can detect heart problems

A dentist may be the first one to suspect health problems, including heart disease. A sore or painful jaw is one indicator of heart disease. There's also a connection between gum disease and heart problems. By eliminating a local infection involving a tooth or the gums, patients have been able to decrease blood pressure medications and improve overall health. New research is suggesting that people with gum disease are at higher risk for heart attacks. If bacteria in the infected gums dislodge, they can enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. That in turn decreases the blood flow to the heart, increasing chances of a heart attack and aggravating high blood pressure.

Data reveals diseased gums pump high levels of harmful bacterial components into bloodstream!

A study from Journal of Periodontology has confirmed findings that people with periodontal disease are at greater risk of contracting systemic disease such as as cardiovascular disease.

Patients with diseased gums release significantly higher levels of bacterial components such as endotoxins into the bloodstream where they can travel to other organs in the body. The mouth can be a major source of chronic or permanent release of toxic bacterial components in the bloodstream during chewing. Individuals with severe periodontal disease had approximately 4 times more harmful bacterial products in their blood.

The study concludes that this data clearly "stresses the importance of regular dental check ups to ensure a healthy disease free mouth.


Have a question about heart disease and dental health?

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Melissa Gallagher at 727-954-8968.

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