What you should know about gum disease and heart disease.

gum diseaseAlthough there have been a lot of statements in the press of a possible connection between gum disease (periodontitis: bleeding and swelling gums, bone loss around teeth) and heart disease and stroke (atherosclerosis) there is no actual evidence that gum disease causes heart disease or that if you don’t floss, you will have a heart attack. There is a lot of interest in the two as they are both chronic inflammatory conditions and there is a relationship between the two in the mechanism of their disease processes. As such, if someone is diagnosed with one, it would be prudent to check for the development of the other.

In a consensus paper published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology, the following was recommended.

Recommendations for people diagnosed with periodontitis:

  • Patients may be at increased risk for atherosclerotic disease.
  • Patients with one known major risk factor for atherosclerotic disease (eg. Smoking, family history, high blood cholesterol) should have a medical exam yearly.
  • The medical examination should include blood lipid profile, blood glucose measurement, blood pressure measurement.
  • Patients who have elevated blood lipid , blood glucose, blood pressure levels should be treated to target levels with medical intervention when required and lifestyle changes (eg. Quit smoking, exercise, diet changes).
  • Patients with periodontitis who are prescribed calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure should be monitored for worsening periodontitis as gum hyperplasia is a known side effect of the medication.

Recommendations for people diagnosed with atherosclerosis:

  • Patients should have a complete periodontal assessment.
  • Patients should reduce and control bacterial accumulation and eliminate oral inflammation through meticulous homecare.


By working together, dentists and physicians can guide patients to better overall health.



Copyright Dr. Kathleen A. Schenk ©2015. All rights reserved.