A revised American Heart Association news release notes that periodontal disease (gum disease) and heart disease share common risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes. But unlike the original release, the newer press statement acknowledges that “studies have found an association between the two diseases that cannot be explained by the common risk factors.”
The newer release goes on to note that more evidence is needed to establish an incontestable causative relationship between Gum Disease and atherosclerotic heart disease.
Though a causative relationship was not defined, the statement acknowledged the association between the two diseases—a crucial detail omitted from the original news release. It was an omission that had sweeping consequences in how the news media, including the ADA News, interpreted and reported the findings.
The connection between Gum Disease and Heart Disease can be explained by several theories. The first theory is that oral bacteria may affect the heart when entering the blood stream by attaching to plaques in the coronary arteries. This may contribute to clot formation. Blood clots can adversely affect the heart by obstructing normal blood flow. This obstruction restricts the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This can lead to heart attacks. A second theory is that the inflammation caused by Gum Disease increases plaque formation in the heart arteries, this may contribute to increase risk of a heart attack.
The fact is that people with Gum Disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack as those without periodontal disease.
Also, research has linked Gum Disease and Strokes. In one study, a relationship was confirmed between oral infections and people who have suffered a stroke in the past. People who were diagnosed with a stroke were found more likely to have and oral infection when compared to those who have never suffered from a stoke.