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The Link Between Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

When most people think of periodontal disease, they usually think this condition solely affects their mouth. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. A large amount of evidence has been accumulated over the last decade on how gum disease sufferers also have experienced life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and strokes. The Aurora and Littleton periodontists at Periodontal Associates, also serving Denver and beyond, strongly believe in the link between the mouth and the body.

The Common Thread

Furthermore, the very bacteria that cause gum disease have been found to accumulate on heart tissue. The biggest link that these diseases share is a constant state of elevated inflammation. Over time a chronic state of inflammation damages small and large blood vessels. Damage of these blood vessels creates inefficiency in oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues throughout the body. Without proper nutrient and oxygen delivery to tissues, nerve cells, heart muscle tissue and gum tissues among other things become damaged.

Heart disease is characterized by thickening of blood vessels that deliver blood to heart tissue. This thickening leads to a decreased ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Over time, the heart tissues become damaged making a person far more susceptible to a heart attack. One of the common ways that blood vessels in the heart can become thickened can be due to bacteria present in gum disease. Some of these bacteria can actually attach themselves to fatty proteins within the bloodstream and cause them to become deposited on blood vessels near the heart.

Strokes are characterized by free floating blood clots that become lodged into smaller blood vessels of the brain. This blockage stops the delivery of oxygen to brain tissue. When brain tissue is devoid of oxygen even for a few minutes, irreversible damage is done. One of the common ways that these blood clots form occurs when blood vessels become damaged by constant inflammation. Once large enough, clots can break free and travel throughout the body.

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition caused by infection of the gum tissues surrounding teeth. If left uncontrolled, infection penetrates deeper into the space around a tooth causing inflammation. Inflammation leads to the destruction of bone and ligaments around the teeth. The end result of untreated periodontal disease is tooth loss. If an individual has a full set of teeth and also has periodontal disease, this means that inflammation is present around the majority of their teeth. If one calculated the amount of surface area surrounding teeth and compared it to an area of skin on the body, this area would be close to the entire surface of the back of their hand. Could you imagine having an ulcer that was the size of the back of your hand? You would probably go to the doctor and have it treated right? Having this degree of inflammation present ultimately leads the body to react. This reaction can more often than not be in the form of blood vessel thickening or blood clot formation. Both of these as mentioned before can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Reducing Your Risk of Complications

Addressing your periodontal condition as well as your susceptibility to other health conditions like stroke and heart disease is undoubtedly important. By visiting your dentist and primary care physician regularly, assessments can be made and steps can be taken to decrease the likelihood of having life threatening conditions occur.

Our Littleton / Aurora periodontists, also serving Denver areas, will work with you and your doctor to help keep your mouth and your body healthy. Drs. Versman, Heller, Beckman and Thousand use the latest advances in the field of periodontics to make sure your mouth and your body are as healthy as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns about stroke, heart disease or periodontal disease, please call (303) 755-4500 or email Periodontal Associates today.

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Or call — 303-755-4500
  • Melissa H.Melissa H.

    Let's be honest here - there is nothing fun about having gum surgery. However, the staff and Dr. Heller were as good as it gets with regard to my treatment....

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