Periodontal Disease & Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

o There are a number of questions which remain unanswered at this time, but it does appear that individuals with periodontal disease may have about a 20% increased risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.

o While we wait for the findings of further research, it is important to identify those individuals who may be at greater risk for heart disease or stroke because of undiagnosed and untreated gum infection.

o Today we know that infection from gum disease is not contained simply within the oral cavity. It is important that you understand how gum disease and increased risk for heart disease and stroke may be related.

o Bacteria from gum infection cause inflammation.

o As a result of inflammation, the blood supply to gum tissues increases.

o This allows the bacteria and their toxins to enter the blood stream from the gum pockets. Simply put, when your gums bleed, a path for bacteria and their toxins to enter your blood stream is created.

o This bacteria and toxins can move through blood vessels to distant sites in the body, including the heart.

o When this happens the artery becomes less elastic and the inside of the artery becomes smaller and smaller.

o What happens next is small blood clots may form and arteries get clogged which causes blood flow to be cut off. This results in a heart attack or stroke depending on the location of the blood clot.

o What we now know is that it is infection and inflammation that accumulates over a lifetime that increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

o So, it is important that any potential source of infection and inflammation be treated.

o The American Academy of Periodontology has determined that patients should be told that “periodontal intervention may prevent the onset or progression of atherosclerosis-induced diseases.”

o This opinion was based on the strength and consistency of scientific evidence, negligible risk associated with periodontal therapy, and the overall benefits of oral health.

Copyright Casey Hein 2008

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