Can your mouth tell if you’re at risk for heart disease?

January 30, 2017

Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, and that risk may be even greater than for those with high cholesterol. 

Can your mouth tell if you’re at risk for heart disease? It just may! Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease. (1) A recent analysis shows that the potential heart disease risk for patients with periodontal disease may be even greater than for those with high cholesterol. (2) For too many Americans, this reality hits close to home in that more than 85 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) (3), while more than 200 million American adults have some form of periodontal disease. (4)

Given the link between these two systemic diseases, the dental profession can be considered a key assessor of not just oral health, but also heart health. Can we help save the 800,000 Americans who die from CVD annually? (1) Or can we help the 795,000 people who have a stroke in the United States annually? (5) The first step is helping the general population understand how these chronic diseases may be related.

Understanding the link between periodontal disease and heart disease: The suspected role of bacteria and inflammation

Scientists suspect the link between the two diseases is due to the same bacteria. In this scenario, bacteria found in infected gum tissue around teeth break down the barrier between the gums and the underlying connective tissue, causing inflammation. During normal chewing or brushing, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move to other parts of the circulatory system, contributing to the formation of cardiovascular disease.

Inflammation, or swelling, is the body’s natural response to infection. It is possible that as oral bacteria travel through the body it triggers a similar response, which then leads to the formation of arterial plaque. (6) Oral bacteria have been found in the fatty deposits of people with atherosclerosis. (7) These deposits can narrow arteries or break loose and clog them entirely, leading to heart attack or stroke.

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