Oral Health and Heart Health
Inflammation in the mouth causes problems with the cardiovascular system. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease, which contributes to heart disease, is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the build-up of fatty proteins. Blood clots can block normal blood flow, restricting the number of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly – and this may lead to heart attacks.
Another way oral inflammation affects heart health is through periodontal disease. With periodontal disease, there is often a large build-up of plaque along the gum line, which may contribute to swelling and clotting of the arteries, and lead to serious heart issues and heart attacks.
Preventing Periodontal Disease and Heart Issues
A healthcare provider can test blood for C-reactive protein levels, which is a sign of inflammation. C-reactive protein levels are found to be high in both patients with periodontitis and those with cardiovascular disease. Treating periodontal disease lowers C-reactive protein levels, and could help to prevent cardiovascular events.
Some of the bacteria in periodontal disease have the ability to destroy connective tissue in the mouth, suggesting that when entering the bloodstream, they infect the heart vessel wall, initiate changes and may contribute to the instability of the plaque – leading to heart attack or stroke.