The association between unhealthy gums and heart disease has been the source of much speculation and research. Now, a recent study has unearthed exactly how gum disease might increase a person’s risk for heart disease. Researchers have discovered that a bacteria that contributes to periodontitis may also affect the vessels that supply blood to the heart, increasing the risk of plaque buildup inside the arteries and other problems associated with cardiovascular disease.
Scientists from the Orebro University in Sweden expanded on their own findings in animal models that showed porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria culprit in periodontitis, also led to formation of atherosclerosis. Their findings were published in the journal Infection and Immunity.
The researchers used cultures from human aortic smooth muscle cells, infecting them with the p. gingivalis to see how the bacteria affected those muscle cells. They found that the bacteria altered gene expression and increased inflammation, which is strongly linked to the onset of atherosclerosis. Inflammation allows for the hardening of arteries by fat and cholesterol, which forms plaque inside the vessels that impacts blood flow. Plaque buildup can increase the risk of blood clot formation, which can lead to a heart attack if it is left unchecked. The researchers noted that their primary goal was to identify biomarkers to help diagnose and treat both diseases. With the ability to link p. gingivalis to both periodontitis and atherosclerosis, it appears their study was successful in at least the first step of this process.
What is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that can lead to damage to tissue and bone loss. The condition is often due to poor dental hygiene or diet. Symptoms of periodontitis include discolored, swollen gums that are sensitive to the touch and gums that recede away from the teeth. Patients may also notice spaces develop between the teeth or loose teeth that can be lost over time.
Treatment for periodontitis will vary, based on the severity of the condition. Some patients may see significant improvement in the infection with scaling and root planing that remove tartar and bacteria and prevent further tartar from building up. Antibiotics are usually prescribed as well to treat the infection.
More advanced cases of periodontitis may require surgical treatments, such as flap surgery or tissue grafts to repair the damage caused by the bacteria. Bone grafting may also be required if the infection has destroyed parts of the bone, to hold the tooth in place.
Other Health Risks of Gum Disease
In 2014, a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that effective treatment of gum disease can lead to better health overall. The scientists in this study looked at dental and health records of nearly 339,000 people with both periodontal disease and another condition like type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They found that those who received at least one periodontal treatment had a lower incidence of hospital visits and lower medical costs related to their other conditions than those that did not have a periodontal treatment. Dr. Kohani offers periodontal treatments at La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry and Orthodontics to help patients address symptoms of periodontal disease and achieve a higher level of oral health. To learn more about his services, contact La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry and Orthodontics today at 858-622-1007.