The Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Attacks

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Gum Disease May Relate to Heart Attack Risk

Previous studies have found the incidence of heart disease is about twice as high in people with periodontal (gum) disease, but until recently, no plausible cause had been suggested. Now studies indicate that the most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque may cause blood clots. When blood clots escape into the bloodstream, there is a relation to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.

People with periodontal disease (over half the adult population) have an infection that causes chronic inflammation of the gums. Also, it is a path for these bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

A recent study describes the association between heart disease and gum disease to be at least as strong as the linkage of heart disease to cholesterol, body weight, or smoking.

Incidence of Periodontal Disease

 Unlike most diseases that give us early warning signs, gum disease progresses silently, often without pain. It may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly. More than half of all people over 18 have at least the early stages of periodontal disease. Even more frightening, after the age of 35, three out of four people are affected to some degree. Periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the supporting bone that holds your teeth in place.

Periodontal Disease may Increase Your Risk for a Variety of Health Concerns

Evidence is mounting relating gum disease to a variety of health concerns some of which are life threatening, as shown in the following list:

  • Weakened Immune System
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Lung Disease
  • Preterm, Low Birth Babies
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gastric Ulcer

Determining Periodontal Disease

Your dental team can help you better understand periodontal disease and how you can prevent it. They can quickly and painlessly check and monitor the condition of your gums during your appointments. Your examinations may show signs of infection, such as bleeding or pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that are deeper than normal. Your dentist may suggest a course of treatment that will help stop any further damage to your gums and bones.

Remember that even healthy looking teeth may have gum disease. Only your dentist or hygienist can tell with a simple exam. By keeping regular recare appointments with your dental team, you help increase your chances for a long and happy life.