Cardiovascular disease is disease of the heart and the blood vessels. Usually, cardiovascular disease is only diagnosed once the damage to the heart and blood vessels are in an advanced phase. Therefore, prevention through the modification of risk factors, such as healthy eating, exercise and not smoking is key.
Recent research indicates that periodontitis (disease of the bone surrounding the teeth) may be associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. It is believed that the inflammatory proteins and the bacteria found around the teeth of people suffering from periodontitis enter the blood stream, where they travel to the heart. A recent study1 examined the presence of bacteria known to cause periodontitis and the thickening of the blood vessel wall commonly seen in heart disease. After examining samples from more than 650 subjects, the investigators concluded that an increased level of blood vessel thickening was associated with the presence of the same bacteria found in dental plaque known to cause periodontitis.
There are many things to consider when assessing your periodontal status. Some patients are more prone to developing cardiovascular disease, and thus extra attention must be given to these patients. Patients suffering from diabetes must work closely with their doctors to ensure that blood sugar levels are controlled, and that regular cleaning are carried out by their dentist.
Reducing bacteria, both above and below the gumline, are important to oral and systemic health. This can be accomplished with traditional cleaning in addition to excellent home care. Oral hygiene instructions are an important part of the treatment plan for all patients, particularly for high-risk patients, like those with cardiovascular disease. Treatment should focus on the prevention of periodontal disease and oral inflammation. And because we know that bacterial challenge is a risk factor for gingivitis among even healthy patients, patients should be encouraged to floss regularly and brush twice daily with a toothpaste that offers antibacterial protection.
Reference 1. Circulation. 2005 Feb 8; 111(5):576-82.