Bacteria from infected gums travels to the heart via bloodstream

The Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease

March 03, 2019

You might think the mouth and heart don’t have much in common. But increasing evidence suggests they may be closely linked. 

Researchers suspect that bacteria present in gum disease can travel throughout the body, triggering inflammation in the heart’s vessels and infection in heart valves. 

This could affect a lot of people. A groundbreaking study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly half of American adults age 30 and older and 70 percent of those 65 and older have some stage of gum disease. Let’s dive into each of these potential risks.

Inflammation in the Heart’s Blood Vessels

Research points to a link between gum disease and inflammation that can precede heart attacks, strokes, and sudden vascular events. For the time being, the exact nature of the cause-and-effect relationship is unclear. 

“Inflammation can be linked to many different reasons and sources. That’s why it’s hard to definitively prove it’s just one thing,” says Marietta Ambrose, MD, MPH, FACC, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

For people with heart disease of blood vessels, inflammation caused by gum disease can add to that process. 

The risk is even greater when high cholesterol is added to the mix. Researchers have uncovered oral bacteria in the fatty deposits of people with atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries. Untreated, those deposits can narrow arteries or break loose and clog them, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Continue reading