Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease another Reason to Brush Your Teeth and Take Your Statin

If you are an adult then there is a good chance that you have some form of periodontal disease.  It is estimated that 47% of adults are affected by periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums of our mouths.  It can range from a simple form with local inflammation to severe forms that can cause significant damage to the tissues around the teeth and the bones.

What causes periodontal “gum” disease?

All along our teeth and throughout our mouth are bacteria.   Bacterial growth together with debris, food particles, and mucous forms plaque on our teeth.  We can remove the plaque film with brushing and flossing our teeth.  Once the plaque hardens it becomes tartar and needs to be removed by our dentist or dental hygienist.  If plaque and tartar are not removed from our teeth, our gums become inflamed.  If this has happen your gums become red, swollen, and fragile and often will bleed easily.  If the disease progresses the gums pull away or recede from the teeth and leave spaces that become infected.  The bacterial toxins break down the tissues of the mouth and bone.  The teeth can become loose and then have to be removed.  All the gum injury, pockets of infection, and lost teeth and bone structure become avenues in which the bacteria can invade the body.  The body responds by raising the systemic inflammatory proteins and cells to fight off the local infection.

Periodontal disease and heart disease

Periodontal disease results in higher levels of body inflammation that can be measured with blood tests of the inflammatory proteins and cells.  These blood tests are CRP, TNF-a, IL-6, the white blood count, and sedimentation rate (2).  These inflammatory markers when chronically elevated are also associated with atrial fibrillation and abnormal heart rhythm in the upper heart chambers, coronary atherosclerosis, and risk of myocardial infarction or a heart attack (3,4).  In fact, the bacteria found in the mouth that causes periodontal disease have also been found in the atherosclerotic plaques of people with coronary artery disease (5).  This last finding suggests that heart harm can be caused not only from the body’s reaction to the disease in the mouth, but from the bacterium invading the body itself.

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