Does Gingivitis Cause Heart Disease?
The Risk of Heart Disease
When you go to the dentist, you’ve probably noticed glossy educational materials displayed warning you that if you don’t take care of your teeth, you may be at higher risk of heart disease. Some studies indicate that people with gum disease (periodontal disease, gingivitis) have a higher risk of stroke, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and coronary artery disease.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding your teeth caused by poor brushing and flossing.
Some studies have shown a link between periodontal and heart disease.
For example, bacteria responsible for periodontal disease may be linked to thicker lining of the carotid arteries, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
CRP Levels High in Both Diseases
Heart disease and periodontal disease share certain characteristics. Periodontal disease causes an inflammatory response by the immune system called C-reactive protein (CRP); so does heart disease. So it is difficult to tell if periodontal disease is causing heart disease in someone with high CRP levels. People who smoke are at greater risk of periodontal disease; but smoking also contributes to heart disease so it is difficult to single out periodontal disease as a direct causative factor.
The American Dental Association acknowledges that although there does appear to be a link between periodontal disease and heart disease, it is unclear whether the association is “causal or coincidental”.
There is no doubt that someone with gingivitis requires dental treatment in order to prevent tooth loss and other problems. But don’t get treatment to prevent or treat heart disease. The ADA recommends that “periodontal treatment for the prevention of atherosclerotic [heart disease] is not warranted based on scientific evidence”.
On a related note, be aware that in the past, the ADA used to recommend that people with any sort of heart valve problem, such as mitral valve prolapse, receive preventive antibiotics before getting many types of dental care. The fear was that dental bacteria which enter the bloodstream after dental procedures and could infect the heart, causing endocarditis. However, since 2007, the ADA no longer recommends broad use of preventive antibiotics (you will see antibiotics online at this site), preserving their use only for people for whom endocarditis would have serious complications, such as those with artificial heart valves.