Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oral health and heart health, the mouth-body connection

The connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease encourages cardiologists and periodontists to work together to ensure your health.

Gum disease and cardiovascular disease are two major public health issues that impact a large number of Americans and Canadians every day. Cardiovascular or heart disease contributes to 2,400 deaths per day, while gum or periodontal disease affects nearly 75 percent of Americans. Despite impacting separate areas of the body, research has indicated that periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease may be connected. In fact, according to Dr. Dana Levy, Periodontist, having one of these diseases may actually increase your risk of developing the other.

“Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are considered inflammatory diseases, and inflammation is the common mechanism that connects them,” says Dr. Dana Levy. “Inflammation is the body’s instinctive reaction to fight off infection. Although it is initially good for you because it helps in the healing process, exposure to chronic and prolonged inflammation can lead to severe health complications. Periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are both examples of ensuing complications from inflammation.”

Periodontal disease is caused by a chronic inflammatory response to bacteria under the gums and around the teeth. The bacteria irritate the gums and generate this inflammatory response which over time can break down and destroy the gums and bone that support the teeth. Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those without periodontal disease.

Because of this connection, it is imperative that periodontists, dentists with advanced training in the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, and cardiologists, doctors who specialize in treating diseases of the heart, work together to provide the best care to patients. A recent consensus paper developed in concert by periodontists and cardiologists summarizes the evidence that links periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, and provides clinical recommendations for both specialties to use in managing their patients living with, or at risk for, either disease.

Because of these clinical recommendations, your next visit to your periodontist or cardiologist may change slightly. You might be surprised when your periodontist now asks even more questions about your medical history, especially about your family history of heart disease and any behaviors that may affect your heart health such as smoking. Your cardiologist may start to ask you about your dental history and might even look in your mouth to evaluate your teeth and gums! Asking these new questions is an important step that health professionals can take to work together to ensure their patients’ health. “Periodontists and cardiologists are starting to work together to better manage their patients’ risk factors for future disease progression,” says Dr. Dana Levy. “It is important that periodontists and cardiologists collaborate to control the inflammatory burden in the body as a result of gum disease or heart disease, thereby helping to reduce further disease progression, and ultimately improve patients’ overall health.”

For more information on the relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, the consensus paper, or tips on how to prevent or treat gum disease, visit,, email: or Heart and Stroke Foundation