Q Recently I thought I saw an article in your magazine on heart disease and tooth problems and how they relate. I really need that article but can’t find it on your Web site.
DEBORAH, Kent, CT

A We have published several such articles, among which are “H. pylori May Be Linked with Heart Disease” and “Periodontal Disease Is Linked to Heart Attacks and Strokes.” Because we are currently overhauling our Web site, these articles and many others are not accessible at this time. Please call to ask for reprints.

The crux of the matter is that your risk for heart attack is tripled by periodontal disease.1 Approximately 80% of adults in the United States have experienced some degree of periodontitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the connective tissue that supports the teeth in their bone sockets. Periodontitis is usually preceded by gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can cause them to swell and bleed. Without treatment, gingivitis often progresses insidiously to periodontitis, which can result eventually in the loss of tissue and bone.

Warning: Periodontitis does not stop there! It can have profoundly negative effects on systemic health, particularly in terms of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and impairment of tissue-repair capacity and immune-cell function.2

In a paper presented in 2000 at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, Dr. Efthymios N. Deliargyris of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues compared 38 recent heart attack patients with 38 healthy volunteers.1 They found that 85% of the former had periodontal disease, compared with only 29% of the latter. Assuming that other relevant factors were properly controlled for, these results strongly suggest that periodontal disease is a problem worth solving if you value your health—and your life.

Dr. Deliargyris believes that a natural compound called C-reactive protein (CRP) may be a link between periodontal disease and heart attacks, via a mechanism having to do with the inflammation caused by chronic infection. When infection is high, so are CRP levels in the blood. And once you’ve had a heart attack, your chances of having another one are increased if your CRP levels are high.

Although this was not the first report of a relationship between poor oral health and the risk of heart attack, the full implications are still not clear. And to make things worse, there is also an increased risk of stroke, or “brain attack.”

Mastic gum has been found to help decrease periodontal inflammation. Regarding CRP levels, Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw report in their Life Extension News, August 2006 (see this page), that there are several interventions that can reduce CRP levels, including the use of multivitamins, arginine, DHEA, nettle leaf, fish oil, and dietary fiber, as well as exercise and weight loss.

References

  1. Anon. Gum disease linked to heart attack risk. Reuters Health, Nov 13, 2000.
  2. Iacopino AM, Cutler CW. Pathophysiological relationships between periodontitis and systemic disease: recent concepts involving serum lipids. J Periodontol 2000;71(8):1375-84.

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