Mark D. Phipps, D.D.S. - Implants & General Dentistry
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Gum Disease, Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Dental Hygiene

Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes

Gum disease in the US may be as much as 50% more common than previously thought, according to new research from the CDC and American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).
A pilot study of 450 American adults found significantly higher levels of periodontal disease than expected.
Previous estimates of periodontitis in the US relied on partial-mouth examinations. When full-mouth periodontal exams were conducted instead, researchers discovered significantly more perio disease, leading them to suspect that previous estimates may have underestimated the population's level of gum disease by up to 50%.
Why is this important? Researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery 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.
Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries. 
Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.  Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures.  Dr. Phipps and your cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke.  In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
While it has been established that people with diabetes are more prone to developing periodontal disease, new research is suggesting that periodontal disease may, in turn, be a risk factor for diabetes.
When you come into the office for your regular dental cleaning, you will be asked questions that will help us assess your need for antibiotics prior to any dental treatment.  Dr. Phipps and the hygienist will determine an appropriate interval for you to return for your regular teeth cleanings based on your current periodontal condition and the effectiveness of your home care.  6 months is a general guideline for dental cleanings but that interval may be shortened if indicated.  If you have questions about your oral health, drop us a note or call our office, we are happy to answer them!

Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke

Preventing gum disease is gaining new urgency as research reveals a significant connection to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pneumonia.
Gum disease (periodontitis) can contribute to these illnesses through a spillover of bacteria and inflammatory agents from the mouth into the bloodstream, which carries them to the rest of the body.
Diabetes and Gum Disease: Gum disease and diabetes counteract with ying-yang synergy; because diabetes can affectcirculation, it can restrict blood flow to the gums, making a person more susceptible to gum disease. Research suggests that treating periodontal disease can improve blood-sugar control. In fact some insurance companies already offer patients withdiabetes extended coveragefor periodontal treatments.
Heart Disease and Gum Disease: Having gum disease can increase a person’s risk of heart disease. Studies also suggest that adults with the highest levels of some oral bacteria have thicker carotid arteries, a predictor of heart attack and stroke. And people who suffer from angina (chest pain) and heart attacks have higher levels of certain oral bacteria. Plus, oral bacteria provoke inflammation, which may increase levels of white blood cells and C-reactive protein, known as CRP. This protein, which is found in the blood, has been linked to heart disease. In a recent trial, periodontal therapy reduced patients’ CRP levels. In a related report, it recommends that patients ask their doctors to test for CRP the next time their cholesterol is checked; that’s one of ten tips for a healthy heart.
Pneumonia and Gum Disease: Poor oral hygiene has been shown to contribute to fatal pneumonias in hospital patients and nursing-home residents. In those settings, lax oral hygiene can foster a buildup of bacteria capable of causing respiratory infections.
Follow the ABCs of good oral care:
  • Eat a diet high in calcium and vitamins C and D and avoid sugary foods.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria.
  • Get your teeth cleaned at least twice a year.
  • If you smoke, have periodontal disease or diabetes, more frequent dental hygiene visits may be recommended.
  • You may be required to take antibiotics prior to dental procedures as determined by your medical doctor in consultation with Dr. Phipps.