Periodontal diseases are infections that affect the tissues and bone that support the teeth. As the tissues are damaged pockets develop around the teeth. The enlarged pockets allow harmful bacteria to grow and make it difficult to practice effective oral hygiene. If left untreated this will result in additional bone loss and eventually loss of teeth. More people are in dentures today because of periodontal disease than any other cause.
Not only does this cause loss of teeth but also it is harmful to one’s health. Research suggests that there is a link between periodontal disease and other health concerns. There is an increased incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stoke, and risk during pregnancy in people with periodontal disease.
The treatment of periodontal disease is not usually easy. A complete scaling and cleaning of the root surfaces is necessary to remove the build up. This treatment may take as many as 4 visits and is not considered a “simple cleaning.”
Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease
What is Periodontal Disease?
Almost half of American adults have some form of periodontal disease. However the majority of these people do not even realize they have it. Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is a bacterial infection of the gums, bone and periodontal ligament (attachment fibers that support the teeth and hold them in the jaw).
Periodontal disease is usually painless and silent until its advanced stages. If left untreated, symptoms can include:
- Persistent bad breathe
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- Red, swollen and tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between the gums and tooth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Periodontal disease can be diagnosed and treated by your dentist and /or periodontist. A periodontist is a specialist with advanced training in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth.
Why should I be aware of the link between heart disease and periodontal disease?
Healthy hearts and healthy gums play vital roles in maintaining a healthy body. Because periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, periodontal bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. The heart is one of the most susceptible organs.
Heart disease (or cardiovascular disease) affects more than 60 million Americans. It is the leading cause of death in the United States. Yet many types of heart disease may be prevented. Taking care of your periodontal health may be one important step toward prevention, along with controlling the well-known risk factors for the disease.
How does periodontal increase my risk for heart disease?
Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.
Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.
What precautions should be taken before dental treatment?
Periodontal disease can affect the heart in other ways. Some existing heart conditions can put people at risk for infective endocarditis. Infective endocarditis is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the heart and heart valves. Those patients with a history of rheumatic fever, mitral valves prolapse, or heart murmur may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your periodontist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental appointments.
The American Heart Association has identified guidelines to help protect patients most at risk for infective endocarditis. These people may be especially prone to problems with their heart following a dental procedure.