What Does Your Mouth Say About Your Heart?

Eliminating dental plaque may be an important step in preventing periodontitis and coronary artery disease according to a new study published in this month?s issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

Researchers examined 20 individuals with chronic periodontitis. In 13 of the 20 patients, bacterial pathogens most frequently found in severe chronic periodontitis were also found in atherosclerotic plaque of coronary vessels. In 10 cases, those species of bacteria were also present in atherosclerotic plaque and in subgingival plaque?. (Atherosclerosis is a multistage process set in motion when cells lining the arteries are damaged as a result of high blood pressure, smoking, toxic substances and other agents.)

?We found that patients with periodontal pathogens detected in atherosclerotic plaque had four millimeters or greater of deep periodontal pockets and a significantly higher bleeding index,? said study author Dr. Maciej Zaremba. ?This supports the possibility that bacteria associated with periodontitis can permeate into coronary vessels.?

?Since periodontal and cardiovascular diseases have several common risk factors, more studies are needed to evaluate the strength of association between the two diseases,? said Preston D. Miller, Jr., DDS and AAP president. ?It is very important for people to talk to their dentist or periodontist about their periodontal health and their at-home oral hygiene routine to prevent periodontal disease and maybe even coronary artery disease.?

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the number one single cause of death in the United States. Knowledge of the risk factors and possible links to coronary heart disease, such as periodontal disease is the first step towards preventing it. To find out if you are at risk for periodontal disease please visit the AAP?s web site and take a free risk assessment test. In the US, for a referral to a periodontist and a copy of the free brochures titled Periodontal Diseases: What You Need to Know and Ask Your Periodontist about Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease please visit www.perio.org

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.