Is Gum disease going to give me a heart attack?

Gum disease has varying levels of severity. If your gums bleed, periodontal bacteria and bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream resulting in an inflammatory response by your body. This response is your body’s chemical and biologic reaction to these invaders.

Usually you’d expect this “inflammatory response” to be beneficial, most of the body’s inflammatory responses are positive for you. But in this case, the inflammatory response is the reverse of that as it causes harm to the body. It sounds odd, but picture yourself exercising for the cardiovascular health benefits and pulling a muscle, it’s a positive activity resulting in harm.

The inflammatory response your body has to these bacteria and bacterial toxins lead to arterial plaques and hardening of the arteries.

The increased plaque and artery hardening leads to a heart attack and stroke.

Eliminating gingivitis and periodontal disease, lowers a patient’s probability of heart disease and stroke. Preventing any periodontal disease, along with treating active disease could mean you’ll live longer even without changing your diet and exercising (although that is important as well, of course).

One study reports “patients who saw a dentist at least once a year were four times less likely to have a history of cerebral vascular accident (stroke)” (Dr. Walter Loesche) Also, periodontal involvement of numerous teeth (15-28) and bone loss of greater than 6mm was “highly associated” with stroke risk.

Dr. Barnes’ recommendation is to use common sense and don’t be frightened by information. It is just that, information. What is true for some is not necessarily true for all. The above periodontal disease and heart condition pairing has been proven to be true in many cases, but we’ve found in some people with active periodontal disease, who also had recent check ups at their cardiologist’s office, that they have reported a normal level of C-reactive proteins, E-selectin and von Willebrand factors that would suggest the poor periodontal health for these particular people aren’t necessarily affecting their heart condition. But also look at it this way. A simple visit to your dentist’s office on a regular basis to get your teeth thoroughly cleaned and maintained generally costs less for the cleaning (normal prices) once every 6 months, than even a bottle of pills you get prescribed by your MD every month to lessen your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. And you get other benefits as well, whiter teeth, better breath, and elimination of that nagging over your shoulder mother’s guilt for not getting yourself taken care of like you should.

Dr. Mike –

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