Chronic Heart Disease May Have its Origins in Gum Disease

Just as smoking has been definitively linked to lung cancer, recent studies have once again shown a strong link between gum disease and heart disease. These studies of over sixty-thousand patients done at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam in The Netherlands has discovered that those suffering from gum disease were twice as likely to have had a heart attack, a stroke, or angina.

This study is a continuation of one done earlier that linked periodontitis to clogged arteries. The patients tested were all over thirty-five years of age and were split into groups of those who had oral disease and those who did not.

What also was discovered was even when other contributing factors to heart disease were factored in, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, those with periodontal disease were still fifty-nine percent more likely to be diagnosed with heart problems.

This was verified according to a report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. According to the research, periodontal disease pulls the gums away from the tooth, creating pockets where bacteria can grow and lead to chronic inflammation. That bacterial inflammation then seeps deeply into those pockets where they enter the blood stream and create infections in other organs in the body as well as the circulatory system.

The senior author of the report, Dr. Bruno Loos believe there are “plausible mechanisms to explain the relationships” such as a common genetic background for the way the body deals with oral bacteria, inflammation, and immune systems.

However, more studies are necessary in order to conclusively prove that oral gum disease is a direct cause of heart illnesses.

This is due because many prominent researchers who have conducted their own studies, such as Dr. Frank Scannapieco, who is the chairman of the Department of Oral Biology at SUNY Buffalo believes that “although the association of periodontitis and coronary disease is robust it is still only a moderate factor when compared to well-known risk factors such as hypertension.

Conversely, researcher Panos Pappanou of Columbia University in New York believes that “it is clear that periodontitis is associated with chronic inflammation, so it makes sense biologically that if you have a heavy infection in your mouth, you also have a level of inflammation that can lead to heart conditions. Although it is important to point out that neither Dr. Scannapieco or Panos Pappanou were involved in the latest study.

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States according to the CDC, such research is invaluable because over 600,000 people die each year from it.
Although more research is needed to find definitive causes of heart disease, it would be foolhardy to ignore what has been revealed so far. It stands to reason that if you have a bacterial infection in your mouth, and it is left untreated, then it is highly likely that this rapidly growing infection will need more room to grown and will advance to other areas of the body.

Just as how we have learned that certain foods are bad for our health, how lack of exercise can cause the weakening of muscle and bone, how smoking and alcohol abuse can lead to serious illnesses, it is now obvious that regular dental visits and preventative oral care can be a very positive factor in maintaining good health overall.