The association between gum diseases and heart disease is not a secret anymore. It has always raised a question in my mind if maintaining good oral health can help me achieve good overall health. Well, the answer is “yes.” Maintaining good oral health can save us from spending thousands of dollars on preventing heart diseases. We can say that proper brushing and flossing can help us maintain a healthy heart. According to the American Academy of Periodontolgy, people with gum diseases are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease, one of the leading causes of heart attacks.
Atherosclerosis also known as “hardening of arterial wall” is one of the major etiological factors of heart disease. This occurs due to deposition of plaque (formed by accumulation of fat and other blood substances on the arterial wall). This can eventually clog the artery leading to complete blockage of coronary arteries precipitating into stroke.
Orbero University of Sweden has clarified one interrelationship between periodontal diseases and heart disease. This study argues that porphyromonas gingivalis, an established culprit in gum disease, also alters the expression of genes that code for a protein that enhances inflammation in the coronary artery. The coronary artery is the vessel that supplies blood to the heart, and its blockage by atherosclerotic plaque can lead to severe cardiovascular complications.
The study lead by Torbjorn Bengtsson, included culturing of human aortic smooth muscle cells and infecting them with p. gingivalis. Consequently, injected p. gingivalis secrete enzymes called gingipains that alter the ratio between two angipains such that they increase the inflammation-significantly increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. Specifically, it increased the expression of inflammatory protein angiopoeitin 2 (Angpt2) and decreased the expression of anti- inflammatory protein angiopoietin 1(Angpt1).
Dentists and dental students can inform patients of the connection between good oral health and a healthy heart. This instruction is even more important with patients who are at risk of developing heart diseases. We should treat the periodontal disease of the patient promptly so we can eradicate the periodontal risk factor of heart diseases. A little prevention goes a long way. Now it seems that while using our toothbrush and floss we might also be preventing serious heart problems down the road.
~Dr. Swati Yadav, predental
About Swati Yadav
Dr. Swati Yadav is a foreign-trained dentist and recently became a member of ASDA to get involved in organized dentistry.