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How is periodontal disease linked to heart disease?

By November 20, 2008 - 2:30pm
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I don't understand how inflammation of the gums, gum disease and/or periodontal disease can be linked to heart disease? Does one "cause" the other? How can problems in your gums have any effect on your heart or arteries?

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Approx 3 years ago I had to have gum surgery. It was the best thing I've done for myself. However, I always had to pre-medicate (antibiotic) prior to any dental procedure due to a heart murmur. I recently called my GP to get a script for my pre meds for a cleaning at my dentist's office, and the GP now says that it's not necessary for me to be pre medicated for dental procedures. I go twice a year to have my teeth cleaned; once to my regular dentist and the other to my periodontist.

Any feedback? Thank you. Marilyn

January 21, 2009 - 3:40pm

Free2beme, a frightening statistic I found is that nearly 75 percent of Americans have some form or degree of periodontal disease and many of us don't know it. The bacteria Coach Virginia wrote about can also contribute to the development of oral cancer, diabetes, respiratory problems and premature babies.

A page from the American Dental Hygienists' Association gives the following information:

Oral cancer: Each year there are nearly 30,000 new cases and nearly 9,000 die from the disease. It is more common than leukemia, melanoma, Hodgkin's disease and cancers of the brain, thyroid, liver, stomach, cervix and ovaries. Treated early, it can be curable.

Heart disease: More people are victims of heart disease than all forms of cancer and AIDS combined, the site says. More than 58 million Americans are affected each year, and a million die.

Diabetes: As many as 16 million people in the United States have diabetes, yet as many as half may not be aware of it. About 95 percent of those with diabetes also have periodontal disease, partly because they are more susceptible to infection.

Respiratory ailments: These can be aggravated when bacteria travels from the mouth to the lungs and sets up camp there.

These are just some of the things the page talks about. I have to admit that while I knew there was a connection between bacteria in the mouth and the health of our organs and body systems, I had absolutely no idea how wide-ranging the effects can be. I will be much more faithful to my dental cleaning schedule from now on, and I'm definitely getting the dental floss back into my daily routine!

Here's a pdf file that goes into detail on all of the above and much more:


November 21, 2008 - 8:23am

The Journal of Periodontology published in February of 2002 the findings of a study conducted with 67 patients to establish the link between periodontal disease and a higher risk of systemic diseases such as cardiovascular. http://www.perio.org

In this study researchers found diseased gums released significantly higher levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components, such as endotoxins, into the bloodstream in patients with severe periodontal disease compared to healthy patients. As a result, these harmful bacterial components in the blood could travel to other organs in the body, such as the heart, and cause harm. The study was in line with other findings by the University of Buffalo where researchers suggested periodontal disease could cause oral bacterial components to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make C-reactive proteins, which are a predictor for increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Rompen, director of the University of Buffalo study reported that the mouth was a major source of chronic or permanent release of toxic bacterial components in the bloodstream during normal oral functions and as such, a possible missing link that could explain the abnormally high blood levels of some inflammatory markers or endotoxemia observed in patients with periodontal disease.

American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) stresses the importance of regular dental checkups to ensure a healthy, diseased-free mouth. They also caution patients about periodontal disease which is a very serious bacterial infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in the mouth. When this happens, gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with plaque and even more infection. As the disease progresses, these pockets deepen even further, more gum tissue and bone are destroyed and the teeth eventually become lose. Approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old and 30 percent of adults over 50 have the disease in this country.

November 20, 2008 - 10:38pm
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