Have you noticed signs of gum disease? When you brush your teeth, you may notice a drop or two of blood in the sink. That is an early warning sign and simply means you should get checked by your dentist. Being proactive can help prevent all sorts of issues that will slowly progress and become worse over time. Gingivitis is regarded as a mild variety of gum disease since the infection is limited to the gums only. If left untreated, the gingivitis can develop into a more serious form of gum disease known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. Both types can increase your risk of other ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, osteoporosis, skin disease, cancer, and dementia. This is why early detection is crucial. The professional dental staff at Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry can diagnose gingivitis and periodontitis. They can help reverse the damage. Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry is located in Alpharetta, GA. They also serve surrounding areas which includes Forsyth, GA, Atlanta, GA, and Cumming, GA. 

History of Gum Disease and Heart Health Connection

In the 1980s researchers discovered the relationship between periodontal disease and heart health. Heart disease typically indicates a wide set of conditions that include stroke and heart attack. When blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, the result may be heart disease. One of the earliest case controlled studies was conducted in 1989 by scientists in Finland based on the research of Kimmo Mattila. Patients with oral infections were 30 percent more likely to be subject to a heart attack as those without oral infections. 

Research continued over the next three decades to strengthen the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease. One of the largest studies involved over 60,000 dental patients. These subjects were 50 percent more likely to have suffered from a stroke or heart attack. Researchers at the Netherlands’ biggest dental school, the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam, studied the records of 60,174 dental patients. Even when other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking were considered, the group with periodontitis still had a 59 percent higher probability to have suffered from heart problems. 

Study Findings

People with periodontal disease have about two to three times the risk factor of having a serious cardiovascular event. Periodontitis makes it harder for the body to fight inflammation for the short term. However, chronic or long-term inflammation is considered to be a major factor in many health problems including atherosclerosis. Dr. Hatice Hasturk is a periodontist with the Forsyth Institute, a Harvard-affiliated research organization. Dr. Hasturk has researched contributing factors to the association between periodontitis and heart disease. Certain compounds known as resolvins may be able to treat diseases associated with inflammation such as atherosclerosis. 

Although some scientists see the data as circumstantial, the correlation is quite strong for a definite link between periodontitis and heart disease. Most conclude that the link is inflammation of the tissues. Gums are full of blood vessels, so we characterize them as being vascular. If the gums are breached, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body causing inflammation. This can damage blood vessels which includes those of the heart. The bacteria includes Streptococcus sanguis which is known to have a role in strokes. If there is no periodontitis there is substantially fewer of these bacteria found in the heart. More bacteria may lead to thicker carotid arteries which makes it harder for blood to flow to the brain. The result is a stroke.

Other Health Risks

There are certain health aspects that could increase the probability of developing periodontitis. Diabetics have a larger risk, because folks with diabetes have increased inflammation along with a greater risk of infections. Age is a factor since 70 percent of people age 65 or more have periodontitis. Genetics indicates that some people are more susceptible to periodontitis. Genetic testing can identify these folks which mean that early intervention treatment can be provided. There are some prescription drugs that may accelerate the progression of periodontitis. These medicines include anti-depressants, birth control pills, and some heart meds. Be sure that you notify all your health and dental care providers of all medicines you are on. Other risk factors include pregnancy stress, poor nutrition, obesity, smoking, and clenching or grinding the teeth. 

Dental health is associated with several other medical conditions. Osteoporosis means that one develops lower bone density and bone loss. Teeth may be lost because of bone loss in the jaw. Certain cancers may also be accelerated due to periodontitis. Pancreatic and kidney cancer may be linked to periodontitis, but more research is needed. People with periodontal disease are also more susceptible to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. The professionals at Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry can get you started on a preventive maintenance plan so that you can avoid unwanted complications of periodontitis. 

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