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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 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 contact our office.

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Testimonials

I just had to write to say how appreciative I am of Dr. Tsui. If you are looking for a dentist, look no further. She is kind, caring and does an amazing job. She makes sure there is no pain and does each job to perfection. I recently had a dental emergency and she was there in no time. On top of all of that, her office is like a spa with water falls and fountains. They have the glasses for you to watch a movie, which are a great distraction. The staff is stellar!!! The nicest staff of people I have ever meet, so professional and personable at the same time. I recommend Dr. Tsui to all my friends, I can't say enough wonderful things about her and her amazing staff.

Ashley F. (Patient gave permission for publication).

I've been a patient of Dr. Tsui's since Smile Creations first opened their doors in 2003. My parents and younger sister see Dr. Tsui as well, and all of us are pleased with the services we've received. My parents have received major work (crowns) and all of us have had cleanings, exams, and fillings done. Dr. Tsui's office is equipped with the latest technologies--digital x-rays, an intraoral camera, and video glasses so you can watch movies as you receive dental work. My parents have recently had more crowns done and in just one visit, Dr. Tsui completed the crown prep work on my parents and they waited in the office while the actual permanent crown was being made right in the office! I've never heard of other dental practices with this technology! My parents didn't need a temporary crown and they didn't need a second visit where crowns are typically sent to labs which can take 2 weeks on average. A call from Dr. Tsui's office is made the next day to check on the healing process and to answer any questions. My parents are quick to point out what a stellar job Dr. Tsui does when it comes to giving anesthetic injections. A numbing topical is applied first, and after a few minutes, Dr. Tsui will carefully and skillfully proceed with the injection into the cheek and gums. She talks you through the whole way so you know what's going on. I have a low pain tolerance and hate needles so she definitely eases my fears through her gentleness and I walk away thinking that the injection hurt less than expected! Dr. Tsui works with a range of patients from the elderly to adolescents. The bi-lingual (English and Chinese) speaking staff including Dr. Tsui herself, allows her to relate and work with multiple generations of people. I have only positive kudos and express my sincere thanks for the gentle and professional dental work that my family and I have received from Dr. Tsui and her staff. I would highly recommend Dr. Tsui for any and all dental care needs.

Andrea W.(Patient gave permission for publication).

Dear Dr. Tsui,

I want to thank you again for all of the great dental care you have provided to me over the years. As you know, I was referred to you years ago by my friend and former co-worker. She raved about how great you and your staff are. I started going to you for dental care about 6 or 7 years ago. 2 of those years, I was forced to change my dental insurance coverage and had to find a different dentist. I went to 2 or 3 different offices trying to find a good patient/doctor relationship....and, frankly, never did. When I went back to an insurer that included you in the network, I was so happy that I could continue my dental care with you.

As you know, I have had the need for 2 crowns recently. Although I can't say I enjoyed the experience, I can say that you and your staff made it as pleasant as possible and I have great confidence in the work that you do. You and your staff have consisently practiced thoroughness, attention to detail and excellent communication (before, during and after procedures). It is very obvious that you truly care about your patients' dental health and their comfort when having their teeth worked on. That makes such a big difference in patient care and I greatly appreciate it! I am happy with the work that you have done for my crowns and I will continue to go to you for any future work that may be needed.

Smile Creations is a wonderful dental care practice! Now, I am the one raving about you and your staff and I have encouraged numerous people to go to you for dental work. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Cathy D.(Patient gave permission for publication).

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