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Periodontal Disease, Stroke, and Heart Disease

Periodontal disease, stroke, and heart disease may seem to be unlikely spoken in the same sentence, but studies have shown that gum disease sufferers are nearly 2 times more likely to also suffer from coronary heart disease. In addition, studies have found that oral infection is likely a risk factor for stroke.

Periodontal disease is a slow growing state in which the gingival tissue around the teeth is infected by the migration of bacteria. Bacteria found in plaque migrate first above, then below the gumline causing the tissue to recede from the teeth. If periodontal disease is left alone, deep pockets form between the teeth and gums and the tissue around the bone is compromised. The collection of bone tissue causes the teeth to wobble, shift or commonly detach from the bone.

Coronary heart disease happens when the walls of the coronary arteries become steadily thicker due to the accumulation of fatty proteins. The heart then constricts from a lack of oxygen and must work significantly harder to move blood to the other parts of the body. Coronary heart disease sufferers at times experience blood clots which interfere with normal blood flow and lessons the amount of oxygen and vital nutrients and oxygen the heart requires to work normally. This process may lead to heart attacks.

Reasons for the Connection

There is no doubt that the existence of periodontal disease can worsen existing heart maladies. The periodontist and cardiologist generally work together in order to help individuals experiencing both conditions.

There are a number of theories which can explain the relationship between stroke, periodontal disease, and heart disease, which may include the following:

  • Oral bacteria affect the heart – There are several different strains of periodontal bacteria. Research has shown that many of these strains of bacteria enter the bloodstream and combine with the fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels (coronary arteries). This attachment then leads to the formation of clots that can cause serious problems.
  • Inflammation – Periodontal disease causes extreme inflammation in the gum tissue which raises the white blood  count and also the high sensitivity C-reactive protein amounts. Studies have indicated that elevated amounts of C-reactive proteins have been associated to heart disease.
  • Infectious susceptibility – Individuals who experience unusually high amounts of oral bacteria may have lowered immune systems and an weaker host inflammatory response. These factors can promote specific vascular effects which have earlier been demonstrated to add to the onset of certain types of heart disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since periodontal disease seems to be a risk factor for both stroke and heart attack, it is very important to administer immediate treatment. Initially, the periodontist will conduct precise tests to evaluate the precise state of the gums, jawbone, and teeth. Radiographs may be helpful in deciding whether bone loss is wide spread in the lower and upper jaw.

The dentist and hygienist will be able to provide deep cleaning treatments such as root planing and scaling to remove difficult tartar (calculus) deposits from the gum pockets. An antibiotic can be administered to make sure that the bacterium is totally destroyed and the periodontal inflammation does not spread. In most all cases, periodontal disease can be eliminated with consistent proper home care and regular cleanings.

If you have concerns or questions about periodontal disease and its relation to stroke and heart disease, please ask to consult with Dr. Braithwaite..