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Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Periodontal disease, heart disease and stroke may seem to be unlikely bedfellows, but researchers have found that gum disease sufferers are nearly twice as likely to also suffer from coronary heart disease.  In addition, research studies have discovered that oral infection is indeed 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 the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth is infected by the colonization of bacteria.  Bacteria found in plaque colonize first above, then below the gumline, causing the tissue to pull away from the teeth.  If periodontal disease is left untreated, deep pockets form between the gums and the teeth and the tissue of the underlying jawbone is also destroyed.  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 the presence of periodontal disease can exacerbate existing heart conditions.  The periodontist and cardiologist generally work as a team in order to treat individuals experiencing both conditions.

There are several theories which may explain the link between heart disease, stroke and periodontal disease, which include 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 also the high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels.  Research studies have 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 which have previously been shown to contribute in 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 extremely important 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 be helpful in determining whether bone loss is prevalent in the upper and lower jaw.

The dentist is able to conduct deep cleaning treatments such as scaling and root planing to remove hardened calculus (tartar) deposits from the gum pockets.  An antibiotic may be prescribed to ensure that the bacterium is completely destroyed and the periodontal infection does not spread.  In most cases, periodontal disease can be prevented with regular cleanings and proper home care.

If you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its relation to heart disease and stroke, please contact our office.

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I've been to many dentists over the years, but nothing prepared me for the most amazing experiences I've had with Doc Wood and his team of experts. Warm, kind, anxiety free and most of all... actually enjoyable.

No one enjoys going to the Dentist, I thought. But I can now say with certainty that I do, and look forward to seeing them again which is why I come all the way from Los Angeles to Corvallis. An incredible experience with incredible people. THANKS, DOC! YOU'RE THE BEST! If only all Dentists could be like you... we'd all have amazing teeth!

Fireball T.L.

Best dental office ever. Skilled professionals with a gentle touch, always concerned with my comfort level, and excellent at what they do. Also, state of the art equipment creates your crowns while you wait. No more temporary crowns and multiple visits. Awesome!

Connie E.

I actually travel across 2 states to visit Dr Wood at his office. His gentle touch is worth the drive. Not to mention his staff is always so courteous and kind, but not nosey. I can't believe how nice it is to not have to fear going to the dentist anymore. Also he is the best at giving shots. Hardly feel them. I actually enjoy going to the dentist. It's like being with family! That's the only way to say it. Plus he really works well with my insurance. And he knows what he is doing! And has some really great equipment. I needed a new tooth and they did everything in house. No repeat visit, just a quick change. My smile has never looked better. Thanks Dr Wood!!!! :)

Jeremy S.

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