Research Shows Connection between Periodontal and Cardiovascular Disease

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Edward Jones
  • 117th Air Refueling Wing
In the current healthcare environment we all live in, it is becoming apparent that disease prevention will receive greater emphasis. Treatment costs and access to care will be increasing factors in our lives as a patient. An area of health promotion attracting more attention by providers and patients is the connection between periodontal and cardiovascular disease. Over the last two decades much research has been done to explore the relationship between these two pathologic entities.

Briefly, specific examples of these investigations include studies by Lalla (2003), Brodala (2002) and Herzberg (1998) which showed Porphyromonas Gingivalis infection was associated with the development of clinically significant vascular lesions versus non-infected controls in different animal experiments. P. Gingivalis is one of the main "bugs" causing destructive periodontal or "gum" disease. The presence of this organism along with other gum disease causing "bugs" (Bacteroides Forsythus, Prevotella Intermedia, Actiomyces species and a few others) in what essentially is an oral infection will accelerate the progression of atherosclerotic vascular lesions in the blood vessels which supply the heart, brain and extremities. The scientific evidence for the disease relationship is impressive.

It was shown that 72% of carotid artery surgery patients harbored bacteria in their blood vessel lesions and nearly half of these specimens had at least one gum disease causing organism in a study by Genco published in the Journal of Periodontology (2000). Bacterial DNA from gum disease causing organisms were present in 85% of the specimens derived from open heart surgery patients in another study by Stelzel, reported in the same journal in 2002. In a VA Hospital 18 year longitudinal cohort study Beck reported in the late 1990's that veterans were 1.9 times more likely to develop fatal heart disease and 3 times more likely to have a stroke if they were diagnosed with periodontal disease.

It is scientifically clear in these peer reviewed works that there is an association between periodontal and cardiovascular disease. The previously mentioned research results did take the impact of other factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes into account. Periodontal disease affected patients were 2.7 times more likely to have heart disease than those individuals with no gum disease according to a study by Genco in 1997. This author suggested that periodontal disease may be a stronger risk factor for heart disease / vascular disease than high blood pressure and cholesterol.

The task is simple for all of us. Seek regular dental care and do what is necessary to avoid periodontal problems. When a person retires from the Air National Guard, Active Duty or private business he or she should have many symptom free years to enjoy life.