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Gum Disease Linked with Heart Disease


Gum Disease Linked with Heart Disease

By Tim Friend, USA Today. Reprinted with permission.

The most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque can cause blood clots that induce heart attacks when they escape into the bloodstream, researchers have reported.

Mark Herzberg of the University of Minnesota said the findings are the first to link bacteria to the formation of potentially fatal blood clots.

Previous studies had found the incidence of heart disease is about twice as high in people with periodontal disease, but scientists didn't know why.

"Now we show a potential biological reason." Herzberg told the 150th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In lab tests, Herzberg and colleagues injected bacteria from dental plaque into the bloodstream of rabbits. The bacteria caused blood clots to form within minutes. Rabbits are a proven model for testing hypotheses about human heart disease and heart attacks.

Chronic inflammation of the gums due to plaque also could be involved in the inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels that is known to lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, Herzberg said.

Additional studies presented at the meeting show that bacteria in plaque also are linked to:

  • A potentially fatal disease called infective endocarditis in which the sac around the heart becomes inflamed.
  • Lung infections in people with chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • A weakened immune system that can slow wound healing and diminish a person's response to vaccines against hepatitis B and influenza.
  • A higher risk of giving birth to premature, low birth-weight infants.

Reducing risk of diseases linked to dental bacteria is a common lesson preached by dentists: Have the teeth cleaned regularly, and floss daily. If necessary, have bone implants to replace dental bone lost from periodontal disease, says researcher, Frank Scannapieco, State University of New York, Buffalo. Bacteria reside in pockets caused by bone loss where the teeth are attached.

Gum disease linked to heart disease, diabetes

by Larry Wolff, Ph.D., D.D.S.

December 20, 2005

Larry WolffThe mouth is the window to the body. It is both an indicator of the body's overall health, and a potential starting point for inflammation of the gums (periodontal disease), which affects three out of four adults age 35 and over, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Periodontal disease not only causes tooth loss-researchers have also linked it to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems, and premature birth. Conversely, researchers are making the connection that these diseases can make an individual more susceptible to periodontal disease 

In some cases, the first signs of systemic disease-diseases that affect the entire body-may be seen in the mouth. For example, periodontal disease that does not respond to traditional therapies could be an early indicator of diabetes. Pale gums could be a symptom of leukemia. Oral lesions often are an early sign of the HIV-virus infection. 

Major research studies continue in an effort to learn more about the link between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases. Earlier this year, for example, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Columbia University reported that older adults who have higher proportions of four periodontal-disease-causing bacteria in their mouths also tend to have thicker carotid arteries-a strong predictor of stroke and heart attack.

In addition, researchers at the U of M and several other medical centers, led by the University's Bryan Michalowicz, are involved in a major study of more than 800 pregnant women with periodontal disease to find out if they are more likely to deliver preterm, low-birth weight babies. The researchers want to find out if treating expectant mothers¿ gum disease will reduce the incidence of premature births.

When your mouth and teeth are disease-free, your risks for developing other diseases throughout your life may be reduced. You can help prevent gum disease by brushing and flossing every day, limiting between-meal snacks and seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly. Good oral hygiene will keep bacteria in the mouth at relatively low levels, preventing the build-up that leads to disease. 

Periodontal diseases are bacterial infections and antibiotics have been shown useful in their treatment and prevention. We recommend using American Dental Association-approved toothpaste and mouth rinses as adjuncts to improve oral health.

To keep plaque at low levels, electric toothbrushes may also benefit patients who might be handicapped or lack manual dexterity. Also, women who are pregnant, or considering pregnancy, should have regular dental checkups.

Another way to prevent periodontal disease is by not smoking. Cigarette, cigar, and pipe-smoking harm oral health as well as overall health. 

The link between oral health and the body's overall health underscores the need for dental-medical teamwork in preventing and treating disease. A dentist is much more than just a "tooth doctor"; he or she is an integral part of a patient¿s health-care team.

Larry Wolff, Ph.D., D.D.S., professor in the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry's Division of Periodontology, and interim chair of the Department of Developmental and Surgical Sciences. This column is an educational service of the University of Minnesota. Advice presented should not take the place of an examination by a health-care professional. For more health-related information, go to http://www.healthtalk.umn.edu.

The following Information is from the American Academy of Periodontalogy which holds the copyright to all of the material.  The article is followed with links from their website

New Study Confirms Periodontal Disease Linked to Heart Disease

Data Reveals Diseased Gums Pump High Levels of Harmful Bacterial Components Into Bloodstream

CHICAGO – February 7, 2002 – A newly published study in the Journal of Periodontology confirms recent findings that people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk of systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Study Abstract *

Researchers found diseased gums released significantly higher levels of bacterial pro-inflammatory components, such as endotoxins, into the bloodstream in patients with severe periodontal disease compared to healthy patients. As a result, these harmful bacterial components in the blood could travel to other organs in the body, such as the heart, and cause harm.

The study is in line with recent findings by the University of Buffalo where researchers suggest periodontal disease may cause oral bacterial components to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make C-reactive proteins, which are a predictor for increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

"We found the mouth can be a major source of chronic or permanent release of toxic bacterial components in the bloodstream during normal oral functions," said Dr. E.H. Rompen, director of the study. "This could be the missing link explaining the abnormally high blood levels of some inflammatory markers or endotoxemia observed in patients with periodontal disease."

Researchers studied 67 patients of whom 42 were diagnosed with moderate to severe periodontitis and the remaining 25 patients were healthy individuals who had never received periodontal treatment. Blood samples were taken before and after patients lightly chewed chewing gum 50 times on each side of their jaw. Researchers found the number of patients with endotoxemia rose from six percent before chewing to 24 percent after chewing. Additionally, those with severe periodontal disease had approximately four times more harmful bacterial products in their blood than those with moderate or no periodontal disease.

"While this clinical study supports earlier findings, there is still much research to be done to understand the link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular, and difficult-to-control diabetes," said Kenneth Bueltmann, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "This data clearly stresses the importance of regular dental checkups to ensure a healthy, diseased-free mouth."

Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. When this happens, gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with plaque and even more infection. As the disease progresses, these pockets deepen even further, more gum tissue and bone are destroyed and the teeth eventually become loose. Approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old and 30 percent of adults over 50 have the disease. More about periodontal disease.

A referral to a periodontist in your area and free brochure samples including one titled Ask Your Periodontist About Periodontal Disease & Heart Disease are available by calling 800-FLOSS-EM or visiting the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.

About the AAP

The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.


For more information, contact the AAP Public Affairs Department at 312/573-3242.

* EDITOR'S NOTE: Representatives of the media may contact the AAP Public Affairs Department to receive a copy of the study Systemic Release of Endotoxins Induced by Gentle Mastication: Association with Periodontitis Severity. Abstracts of Journal of Periodontology articles are available to the public online. Full-text of studies may be accessed by AAP members and Journal subscribers or purchased online for $20.

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