Gum Disease Linked with Heart
Gum Disease Linked with Heart
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
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
- 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
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
The 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
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
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
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.
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
New Study Confirms Periodontal Disease Linked to Heart
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
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
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
"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
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.
AAP Statements and Press Releases