Gum Disease Increases the Risk of Heart Problems

by Dr. Michael Vold

 

Keeping your gums healthy not only prevents tooth loss, it can help you avoid future heart problems. Gum disease (periodontitis) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

In a Swedish study involving 8,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 85, it was found that individuals with periodontal disease had a 53% greater chance of heart attack than people with healthy gums. Researchers also concluded that men and women with bleeding gums were twice as likely to suffer a stroke compared to individuals whose gums were healthy.

Other studies have shown that the potential for cardiovascular disease increase by 19% in individuals with gum disease.

Periodontitis is caused by bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria penetrates the gum tissue surrounding the teeth, causing inflammation and infection. The inflammation creates pockets in the gums, which are filled by the plaque. Signs of periodontitis include red, tender and bleeding gums; swollen gums, bad breath, gum recession and loose teeth. Other factors that can influence the potential for gum disease and its aggressiveness include smoking and diabetes.

Some experts believe that it is the inflammation caused by gum disease that results in heart problems. Inflammation is the body’s response to pathogens. When it continues too long, inflammation can become as destructive as it is helpful.

Gum disease also makes it easier for bacteria to enter the blood stream, especially when the gums have receded. Some of these bacterial strains can produce clots, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes as well.

The potential for gum disease can be minimized by getting rid of plaque buildup in the mouth. Plaque is formed by colonies of bacteria that attach themselves to the tooth’s surface. It is usually visible as a thin, yellow film on the tooth. Regular brushing and flossing can help remove the plaque. However, professional cleaning on a regular basis is also necessary. The cleaning will reach deeper areas of the gum, remove plaque from pockets and also get rid of tartar, plaque that has hardened over time.

It has been found that professional teeth cleaning can lower the risk of heart attack by 24 percent and the potential for stroke by 13 percent. Also, that men and women who have their teeth cleaned annually have fewer heart attack and strokes.

With regular dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning you can prevent future medical complications such as cardiovascular disease. You also have long lasting, healthier teeth.

About Dr. Vold

Dr. Michael Vold has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin (1963), a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Northwestern University Dental School (1967) and a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law (1980). He served as a dentist in the U.S. Air Force and taught as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, College of Dentistry. Dr. Vold is a member of the American Dental Association and Illinois State Dental Society, as well as a recipient of numerous professional honors and awards.