We all know taking care of our teeth by brushing and flossing keeps the dentist happy, but believe it or not it also pleases cardiologists. The American Academy of Periodontology and the American Heart Association both support research suggesting Periodontal Disease can be directly tied to the development of cardiovascular disease. Although the exact mechanism between the two is not yet known, scientists believe the chronic inflammation associated with gum disease is one of the factors leading to heart disease. Curiously, the bacteria present in gingivitis and periodontitis also shows up in artery plaques. Current theories on the tie include that the bacteria in gum disease triggers minor inflammation throughout the body and in some way alter the dynamics of blood circulation in the heart. Another theory is that these bacteria may attach themselves to artery walls causing fat deposits and the subsequent narrowing of the blood vessels. Curiously the researchers have also discovered a genetic marker in human subjects which seems to correspond with a higher likelihood of periodontal disease leading the cardiac issues.
The AAP and AHA are currently conducting additional studies to attempt to reveal the nature of the ties between these two seemingly unrelated diseases, but in the absence of evidence, vigilance is recommended. “Because of its association with coronary heart disease, periodontitis should be taken very seriously by dentists and treated as early as possible,” Dr Arne Schaefer a lead researcher in the field. These measures of course include daily brushing with regularly-replaced toothbrushes, flossing and rinsing, as well as sticking to a schedule of professional dental checkups.
“It may be overly simplistic to expect a direct causal link between gum disease and heart disease,” says Dr. Pamela McClain, AAP president. “The relationship between the diseases is more likely to be mediated by numerous other factors, mechanisms and circumstances that we have yet to uncover. We do know that periodontal care will improve your oral health status, reduce systemic inflammation, and might be good for your heart as well.” More evidence is needed to establish a clear relationship between periodontal disease and atherosclerotic heart disease, but for now it's a darn good reason to brush brush your teeth.