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Are Gum Disease and Heart Disease Related?

Updated on October 11, 2012

A Healthy Heart

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Not all Experts Agree

Theories and Recent Studies

Recent theories have linked the health of the gums to the risk of heart disease. The conclusion of these studies has suggested that the simple care and flossing of the teeth can be a major deterrent to the risk heart disease and stroke. In similar experiments, the gums also influenced the amount of cholesterol in the blood, and may contribute to atherosclerosis, or the thickening of plaque that lines the inside of the arteries.

The Mouth is Contaminated with Bacteria

It has long been thought that an infected tooth or gum will pass bacteria into the bloodstream during tooth brushing or flossing. Prudent dentists refuse to pull a tooth or perform other dental procedures on infected tissue without prescribing a round of antibiotics. Some experts agree that inflammation of the gum tissue may contribute to the clot formation of the blood and the swelling of the arteries. Once a clot is formed, it may cause a heart attack or stroke. The plaque buildup on teeth irritate the gums and cause the inflammation process to occur in other systems of the body and may contribute to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other organ health.

Recent Research on the Carotid Arteries and Gum Disease

Certain cells in the gums are linked to the carotid arteries located on either side of the neck. During several scientific experiments, the correlation of the receptor sites on the gums influenced the condition of certain cells in the carotid arteries. As the inflammation of the gums increased, the swelling of the carotids responded respectively.

Other Studies Recently Reported

In several studies, the researchers found that people with periodontal disease were twice as likely to develop heart disease. In addition, people with gum inflammation were linked to stroke and the formation of blood clots that caused strokes and heart attacks. However, are people who are susceptible to heart disease also vulnerable to gum inflammation?

The American Heart Association Reports a Discrepancy

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the link between heart disease and gum inflammation is weak, and has concluded that further studies are necessary to show the two conditions are truly linked. In addition, the AHA goes as far as to suggest that the weak theory is only promoted by stake holders and people who have monetary gain.

Carotid Artery

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Regular Teeth Cleanings

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The Link can’t be Denied

Although periodontal disease can be linked to heart disease and stroke, it is important to be aware that gum disease may be caused by other factors that are contributory to heart disease and other conditions. People who smoke do exhibit inflamed gums, but smoking does damage the heart and lung tissues as well. Those who have high rates of periodontal disease may also take medications that affect the heart health, have diabetes or engage in illicit drug abuse. All of these factors must be considered when critically thinking about the causal effect of gum health and heart disease.

A Well Informed Health Consumer

Although the debate continues between the experts on the link of heart disease and gum inflammation, the need for continued mouth and gum care continues to be an important part of hygiene and health. The educated consumer should be aware of the misleading and unfounded information, even in the medical community, and awareness about health issues is paramount to a healthy life.


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    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, and Interesting. Yikes! I'm way overdue for a teeth checkup and cleaning.

    • icmn91 profile image

      icmn91 4 years ago from Australia

      Interesting information on heart and gum disease. Our family doesn't seem to have had a history of suffering either.

      There's been lots of talk in the media here on A1 milk and type 1 diabetes and (even more significantly) heart disease. Most of our dairy milk consists of a mix of a1 and a2 beta casein. Milk containing only A2 beta casein is said to not cause these problems.

      Would you happen to know of any connection here?

    • healthwriterbob profile image

      healthwriterbob 4 years ago from United States

      Hi

      You are writing on a subject that I have been interested in for a while. I have always believed that a person's oral health is indicative of his/her general health. I have been flossing for nearly 40 years, and I tell my dental hygienist that the only days I don't floss are the days on which I get my teeth professionally cleaned. She replied that some people floss only on the days that they visit the dentist. There is no question that brushing is not enough to lower the bacteria content in the mouth. Flossing is imperative. Thanks for the interesting hub. Take care.

      healthwriterbob

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks HealthyLife, I found the debate in the medical community interesting and surprisingly bold. Thanks for reading and always nice to see you!

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I found your hub interesting since I have heard so much about the correlation between healthy teeth and gums and other health issues. Even if there is a possible link it is important not to neglect our dental health. Voted up!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Sue, I appreciate your support and I'm particularly glad you floss, so do I. It seems if I don't, my dentist punishes me with a cleaning~

    • profile image

      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi eHealer,

      I try to floss my teeth everyday. I hope people will not stop flossing as it part of good oral health.

      Voted up and awesome

      Have a good day. :)

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Glimmer, thanks for reading my hub and I always appreciate your comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Interesting hub! I had heard this before but always took it with a grain of salt. This shows me that there is a lot more this than I originally thought. Thanks.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      I agree Rajan, I don't know why the AHA is so against the findings, but that is what is debated at this time. Thanks for the visit, and I always appreciate your comments.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Deborah, a very interesting subject, and a subject of much concern as both are inflammatory diseases. There are a lot many references to the connections between the two and it seems best to correct oral disease to reduce risk of heart disease.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.