– By Juan Teodoro, D.M.D. –
Periodontitis or gum disease is a bacterial infection that destroys the bone and tissue that supports the teeth. It is the major cause of adult tooth loss and it affects over 75% of Americans.
Researchers have found that people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer coronary artery disease than those without gum disease. This, in turn, may increase the chance of a heart attack. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that people with periodontal disease were much more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than those without periodontitis. Other studies have demonstrated a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. One study showed that individuals diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia (stroke) are more likely to have an underlying oral infection than those without stroke.
One suggested pathway states that oral bacteria may enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques within the walls of heart vessels. The bacteria could then cause injury to the vessels which results in clot formation. These clots can obstruct normal blood flow to vital organs, thus causing heart attack or stroke. Another pathway points to the inflammatory process resulting from gum disease, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries. Additional evidence from animal studies showed periodontal bacteria found in plaque deposits that narrow coronary arteries. Regardless of the mechanism that connects them, it is clear from the studies that the long term effects of gum disease, such as extended bacterial exposure and the resulting inflammatory response may be a critical risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Cardiologists and Periodontists Joining Forces
Cardiologists and Periodontists are joining forces to help reduce the risk of these associated diseases by controlling inflammation, thereby helping to reduce further disease progression. Recently, a consensus paper on the relationship between heart disease and gum disease was published in the two leading publications for the Cardiology and Periodontal specialties; the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Periodontology. The clinical recommendations outlined in the consensus paper advised eriodontists to inform their patients of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This paper also recommends that physicians managing patients with cardiovascular disease evaluate the mouth for the basic signs of periodontal disease such as significant tooth loss, bleeding and or receding gums.
The First Step to Health: Proper Screening and Diagnosis
Proper screening and diagnosis of gum disease is the first step to health, and your family dentist is an appropriate starting point. If you are found to have gum problems, you may be referred to a Periodontist. If you suspect that you have gum disease, or you are in a high-risk category (smokers, diabetes, family history), you may wish to seek a gum disease screening by a Board Certified Periodontist. A Periodontist is the dental specialist who diagnoses and treats periodontal disease. Your Periodontist will diagnose the severity of your gum condition and provide you with treatment options. These options range from scaling and root planning, periodontal gum surgery, bone grafting or laser periodontal therapy.
To learn more about the different treatment modalities or to schedule an evaluation, contact Dr. Teodoro’s office at 239-333-4343.