Are Gum Disease and Heart Disease Related?
A Healthy Heart
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.
Regular Teeth Cleanings
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.