Since February is both National Heart Health Month and National Dental Health Month, we want to highlight the connection between heart health and dental health. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. Interestingly, current research shows that periodontal bacteria invade the cardiovascular system to incite inflammation and atherosclerosis.
“While the American Heart Association does not yet call the relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease causal, the impact these pathogens exert on systemic inflammation and atherosclerosis is undeniable. Just last week, a study found both cariogenic and periodontopathic bacteria in 90% of patients with heart valve disease. A 2013 study in Circulation concluded that up to 50% of heart attacks were triggered by oral bacteremia—bacteria in the bloodstream.” (Click here to read more).
Bacteria most commonly associated with severe chronic periodontitis has also been identified in atherosclerotic plaque of coronary vessels. Eliminating dental plaque could be a crucial step in preventing periodontitis and coronary artery disease. Make sure you are encouraging your patients to visit their dentists regularly to avoid this.
Our desire is that physicians will play a more active role in the oral systemic connection. This includes screening at-risk patients for the common signs of periodontal disease, which include bleeding gums, swollen gums, pus, shifting teeth, chronic bad breath and family history of periodontal disease. When appropriate, they can refer them to dentists and periodontists who are uniquely qualified to evaluate and treat their patient’s oral conditions. This new era of interdisciplinary dental/medical cooperation will undoubtedly result in improved patient health, as well as an improvement in overall patient longevity.