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Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Periodontal disease, heart disease and stroke may seem to be unlikely bedfellows, but researchers have found that gum disease sufferers are nearly twice as likely to also suffer from coronary heart disease.  In addition, research studies have discovered that oral infection is indeed a risk factor for stroke.  People diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to also be experiencing some degree of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition in which the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth is infected by the colonization of bacteria.  Bacteria found in plaque colonize first above, then below the g gumline causing the tissue to pull away from the teeth.  If periodontal disease is left untreated, deep pockets form between the gums and the teeth and the tissue of the underlying jawbone is also destroyed.  The destruction of bone tissue causes the teeth to shift, wobble or completely detach from the bone.

Coronary heart disease occurs when the walls of the coronary arteries become progressively thicker due to the buildup of fatty proteins.  The heart then suffers from a lack of oxygen and must labor significantly harder to pump blood to the rest of the body.  Coronary heart disease sufferers sometimes experience blood clots which obstruct normal blood flow and reduce the amount of vital nutrients and oxygen the heart needs to function properly.  This phenomenon often leads to heart attacks.

Reasons for the Connection

There is little doubt that the presence of periodontal disease can exacerbate existing heart conditions.  The periodontist and cardiologist generally work as a team in order to treat individuals experiencing both conditions.

There are several theories which may explain the link between heart disease, stroke and periodontal disease, which include the following:

  • Oral bacteria affect the heart – There are many different strains of periodontal bacteria.  Researchers assert that some of these strains of bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels (coronary arteries).  This attachment then contributes to clot formation causing grave danger to the individual.

  • Inflammation – Periodontal disease causes severe inflammation in the gum tissue which elevates the white blood cell count and also the high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels.  Research studies have shown that elevated levels of C-reactive proteins have been linked to heart disease.

  • Infectious susceptibility – Individuals who experience particularly high levels of oral bacteria may have weaker immune systems and an inadequate host inflammatory response.  These factors may induce specific vascular effects which have previously been shown to contribute in the onset of certain forms of heart disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since periodontal disease appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is extremely important to seek immediate treatment.  Initially, the periodontist will conduct thorough examinations to assess the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone.  X-rays can be helpful in determining whether bone loss is prevalent in the upper and lower jaw.

The dentist is able to conduct deep cleaning treatments such as scaling and root planing to remove hardened calculus (tartar) deposits from the gum pockets.  An antibiotic may be prescribed to ensure that the bacterium is completely destroyed and the periodontal infection does not spread.  In most cases, periodontal disease can be prevented with regular cleanings and proper home care.

If you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease and its relation to heart disease and stroke, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

All service was great! My dental technician did an excellent cleaning and I love their computer program that shows your potential cavities. I was able to see for myself whether I had problems or not.

I felt like they did not over-recommend things and were supportive of preventative methods and giving teeth the chance to bounce back with proper hygeine before jumping to "You need a filling". I had some questions, and they had no problem answering them

Elle B. , Arlington VA

10 Stars if Possible!
After the cleaning Dr. Cotes came in and he was great as well. He gave me a full dental exam and even took time to explain the clicking I get in my jaw. He gave me multiple options for teeth whitening and even told me the prices so there would be no up front surprises depending on which method I went with. He took the time to answer any question a threw at him and without trying to rush me out for the next patient. Not really sure what Megan S. is talking about in her review but I did see her only other review on the site was negative as well...just sayin...

Overall:
I would give Dr. Cotes and his staff 10 stars if it was possible. Everyone knows going to the Dentist is a crappy process. I didn't think it was this possible to have a decent time at the Dentist Office and be taken care of in a timely manor!!!

Dustin S. , Arlington VA

Dr. Cote is just that good. I was referred to Dr. Cote by a friend at work, and I am SO thankful for that reference. The man is a consummate professional, has a friendly staff and has provided me with nothing short of stellar care for the last year. He explained things to me that my lifelong dentist never took the time to do before (like, how I can proactively strengthen the enamel on my teeth). He's got hi-tech gear that indicated areas where future problems might crop up and he's kept an eye on them during every return visit. I have never felt empowered and reassured in a dentist's office, but Dr. Cote is that good.

Dentistry can be a very personal enterprise, and since I had the same dentist since birth, finding a new dentist in DC was a harrowing experience. I actually walked out of three dentists offices (too sketchy for my tastes) before settling going to Dr. Cote. I live in the District, but I'm willing to suffer the indignity of Pentagon City just to have Dr. Cote take care of my teeth.

Evan M. , Washington DC

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