A Discussion on Periodontal Health and Heart Disease

girl listeningNot a lot of media attention is given to periodontal (gum) disease, but the chronic illness affects nearly 80% of America’s adult population and is the number one cause of permanent tooth loss. You may have diligently brushed and flossed your teeth for as long as you can remember, but you may still be vulnerable to this disease. Destruction from periodontal disease can effect far beyond your teeth and gums, and may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and other systemic illnesses. To help exemplify the importance of preventing and treating periodontal disease, your Encinitas periodontist, Dr. Ann Kania, explores the connection between the dental malady and your risk of potentially fatal heart disease.

The Humble Beginnings of a Serious Problem

One of the pillars of the oral-systemic connection lies in the humble beginnings of dental issues like tooth decay and gum disease. Have you ever run your tongue over your teeth, only to grimace at the sticky, uncomfortable mass that covered their surfaces? That substance is dental plaque, which consists mostly of the bacteria that reside in your mouth and is largely responsible for the development of major oral health issues. While over 600 different kinds of oral bacteria can contribute to plaque buildup, only a few of them deserve special note for their penchant for causing damage. As far as gum disease is concerned, the most notable microbe is Porphyromonas gingivalis, which can disrupt the normal function of your immune system’s inflammatory response to harmful microbes. Red, swollen, and sometimes bleeding gums typically indicate the onset of periodontal disease, although there is rarely any physical discomfort at this stage, so it can often be overlooked until it advances.

A Major Component of Oral-Systemic Health

Periodontal disease results in increased inflammation in the oral tissues.  Swollen, bleeding gums also allow the introduction of bacteria from your mouth into the bloodstream. If inflammation-causing germs are allowed contact with other areas of your body through this method, they could potentially incite tissue destruction, increasing your risk of developing other chronic inflammatory diseases. In fact, studies have shown that the presence of P. gingivalis infection can exacerbate heart disease conditions, especially in the arterial disease, atherosclerosis. Other studies have suggested connections between the mechanisms of periodontal disease and other systemic illnesses, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, and some forms of dementia.

Maintain Your Periodontal Help with Your Encinitas Periodontist

If you live in or near Encinitas, Dr. Kania can thoroughly inspect your periodontal health to determine if disease is present, or if you are at a high risk for its development. To learn more, contact Dr. Kania at our Encinitas periodontal care office by calling (706) 642-0711. We serve patients from Encinitas, San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, La Costa, and the neighboring communities.