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.
Reasons for the Connection
- 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.
- Inflammation – 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.
- Infectious susceptibility – 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 heart disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since periodontal disease appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is extremely important to see your dentist at least twice yearly for checkups and professional cleanings. If necessary your dentist will work in conjunction with other doctors to ensure that both conditions are being managed and controlled as effectively as possible.
Non-surgical procedures performed by your dentist and dental hygienist include deep scaling, where calculus (tartar) will be removed from the teeth above and below the gumline, and root planing, where the root of the tooth is smoothed down to eliminate any remaining bacteria. Antibiotics may be applied to the gum pockets to promote healing.
Before and after periodontal treatment, your dentist and hygienist will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance as well as prescribing prescription mouthwashes which serve to deter further bacteria colonization.