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Gum Disease and Heart Disease: What does one have to with the other?

This disease, and it is a disease, is caused by the accumulation of bacteria on the gums, leading to destruction of gum and tooth tissue, and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontitis is a disease of inflammation, and as such can activate certain molecules involved in the inflammatory process, as well as white blood cells attempting to deal with the chronic bacterial infection of the gums. In studies going back over 25 years, gum disease has been associated with a wide range of vascular diseases, including myocardial infarction or heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, aortic aneurysm, and cardiac death.

Often periodontitis is associated with other risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, older age, and lower income levels. In some studies it has been difficult to prove from a statistical basis that periodontitis itself is a risk factor for heart disease.

However, a recent study from Sweden found that patients suffering from their first heart attack had a 43% higher incidence of significant periodontal disease than a similar group of control patients. There was also a very significant increase in the incidence of heart attack in the patients with periodontitis, even after considering additional risk factors for heart attack.

So does gum disease really cause heart disease? Most doctors are not sure, but a large number of studies over the years do indicate a strong association between the two. Although no one is certain that the treatment of gum disease will reduce the incidence of heart disease, taking care of your teeth and gums is an important general health recommendation. Flossing and seeing your dentist are a good things to do, and might help reduce your risk of heart disease.


  1. Ryden L, Buhlin K, et al. Periodontitis Increases the Risk of a First Myocardial Infarction.

Circulation 2016 133:576-583.

  1. Stewart R, West M. Increasing Evidence for an Association Between Periodontitis and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation 2016 133: 549-551.
Dr. Arnold Meshkov

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