gum disease

The Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Attacks



   Our office recently took part in an LVI Comprehensive Hygeine course which focused on recent studies that suggest the health of the mouth and body are significantly linked. Although this research is still developing, there is strong evidence that infection in the oral cavity increases the risk and elevates the complications associated with numerous diseases and conditions, in particular heart disease and stroke.

       Many diseases of the heart and blood vessels are due to the thickening of artery walls, known as atherosclerosis. This condition results from fat deposits as well as inflammation within the artery. Infections elsewhere in the body contribute to this  inflammatory damage in the arteries.

     To put it simply, healthy gums do not bleed. One of the most obvious signs of gum disease is gums which bleed while brushing or eating because of the inflammatory tissue response of the bacteria in the mouth. These oral bacteria are allowed to enter the blood stream and travel throughout the body, namely the heart, when bleeding in the mouth occurs. Research has shown that bacteria from gum infections could be one of the infections causing infammatory damage  in the arteries. Due to the inflammation because of the presence of bacteria in the blood stream, the artery reacts by becoming less elastic and increasing the thickness of its walls. Next, blood clots may form causing the arteries to become clogged and cutting off blood flow. This lack of blood flow is what causes a heart attack or stroke, depending on where the clot occurs.



Open Wide, It'll Help Your Heart

Visiting a dental hygienist isn't just good for your teeth – it could also protect your heart, researchers claim. They found that those who have their teeth professionally cleaned and polished at least once a year cut their risk of a heart attack by nearly a quarter.

And they are 13 per cent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who have never had the treatment.

Scientists have known for several years that the condition of teeth and gums is strongly linked to the likelihood of heart problems.

Not brushing properly causes plaque to build up, which leads to gum disease. Bacteria then enter the blood stream via the gums, and it is thought that this causes artery walls to become inflamed, which can trigger heart attacks or strokes.

The bacteria may also contribute to the build-up of fatty deposits in the bloodstream, which can also lead to heart problems.

Researchers from Taiwan looked at the records of more than 100,000 adults over seven years and noted how often they went to a dental hygienist.

Lead researcher Emily Chen from the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, who presented the findings at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions conference in Florida, said: ‘Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year.’

‘Keeping your teeth clean and visiting the dentist is important but if you really want to help look after your heart, make sure you eat a balanced diet, avoid  smoking and take part in regular physical activity.’

A separate study found that those with fewer than 21 teeth were two-thirds more likely to have a heart attack. Healthy adults have 32.

Anders Holmlund from Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden also found that people with large numbers of infection around the gums were 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.

Regular visits to the dental hygienist not only keeps you teeth bright and clean, it can also improve your health.

Gum Disease = Heart Disease

A study from Harvard School of Public Health shows that people who have gum disease are at high risk for having blocked arteries in their legs,  heartattacks, and strokes. Many previous studies have reported the association between gum disease and heart attacks and strokes. This study shows that men who suffer from gum disease have one and a half times the chance of having blocked arteries to their legs, while losing teeth from gum disease doubles chances. Having lost a tooth in the last six years markedly increased a person's chances of having blocked arteries. For years, doctors were unable to explain why many people with high cholesterol levels do not suffer heart attacks, while many with low levels suffer heart attacks.

Recent research show that inflammation is a stronger predictor of heart attacks than cholesterol, and inflammation is often caused by infection. There is a blood test; C-Reactive Protein, (CRP) that measures the amount of inflammation in your system. 

A C-reactive protein (CRP) test is a blood test that measures the amount of a protein called C-reactive protein in your blood. C-reactive protein measures general levels of inflammation in your body.  High levels of CRP are caused by infections and many long-term diseases. But a CRP test cannot show where the inflammation is located or what is causing it. Other tests are needed to find the cause and location of the inflammation

Sometimes it is not checked during routine blood work, so you must ask for it. If you have infected gums, a check with your dentist could save your life.