It’s possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease. We’ve known that bacteria may affect the heart. Now evidence is mounting that suggests people with periodontal disease – a bacterial infection, may be more at risk of having cardiovascular disease, than patients without periodontal disease. Additionally, research suggests that managing one disease may reduce the risk for the other.

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.

Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries. Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease. 

Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your periodontist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures. 

One out of every five Americans has one or more types of heart disease. If you are one of these Americans, or if you are at risk for periodontal disease, see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation – because healthy gums leads to a healthier body.