Periodontal disease, heart disease, and stroke may seem to be unlikely bedfellows. However, researchers have found that gum disease sufferers are nearly twice as likely to also suffer from coronary heart disease. In addition, studies have discovered that oral infection is a risk factor for stroke. People diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to also be experiencing some degree of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a progressive condition in which bacteria infect the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth. Bacteria found in plaque colonize first above, then below, the gumline, causing the tissue to pull away from the teeth. In untreated periodontal disease, deep pockets form between the gums and the teeth. The disease also destroys the tissue of the underlying jawbone. The destruction of bone tissue causes the teeth to shift, wobble, or completely detach from the bone.
Coronary heart disease occurs when the walls of the coronary arteries become progressively thicker due to the buildup of fatty proteins. The heart then suffers from a lack of oxygen and must labor significantly harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. Coronary heart disease sufferers sometimes experience blood clots, which obstruct normal blood flow and reduce the amount of vital nutrients and oxygen the heart needs to function properly. This phenomenon often leads to heart attacks.
Reasons for the Connection
There is little doubt that periodontal disease can worsen existing heart conditions. The periodontist and cardiologist generally work as a team to treat individuals experiencing both conditions.
Several theories may explain the link between heart disease, stroke, and periodontal disease, including the following:
- Oral bacteria affect the heart– There are many different strains of periodontal bacteria. Researchers assert that some of these strains of bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels (coronary arteries). This attachment then contributes to clot formation causing grave danger to the individual.
- Inflammation– Periodontal disease causes severe inflammation in the gum tissue, which elevates the white blood cell count and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels. Research has shown that elevated levels of C-reactive proteins have been linked to heart disease.
- Infectious susceptibility– Individuals who experience particularly high levels of oral bacteria may have weaker immune systems and an inadequate host inflammatory response. These factors may induce specific vascular effects that contribute to the onset of certain forms of heart disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since periodontal disease appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is crucial to seek immediate treatment. Initially, the periodontist will conduct thorough examinations to assess the exact condition of the teeth, gums, and jawbone. X-rays can help determine whether bone loss is prevalent in the upper and lower jaw.
The dentist can conduct deep cleaning treatments, such as scaling and root planing, to remove hardened calculus (tartar) deposits from the gum pockets. An antibiotic can help destroy the bacteria and stop the infection’s spread. In most cases, patients can prevent periodontal disease with regular cleanings and proper home care.
Make an Appointment with a Dentist in Scarborough, Ontario
You want to live a happy and healthy life, so you need to visit a dentist in Scarborough, Ontario. Your dentist will look for signs of periodontal disease. Early detection and treatment protect your overall health. Make an appointment with your dentist and get the treatment you need.
If you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its relation to heart disease and stroke, please contact our office.