Much has been written about at least a dozen or so conditions with strong, likely, or possible links to oral infection; however, the link to the heart has always – and will probably – remain the most scrutinized and important link.
Why? Most likely it’s because heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. – yes, even above cancer! Even more appalling is the incidence of heart disease in adults age 20 and older.
Several theories exist to explain this link. The most likely one is that bacteria enter our bloodstream whenever our gums bleed; this has been well established for decades. However, it is believed that these bacteria in the bloodstream then attach to fatty plaques in the heart’s blood vessels and contribute to clot formation. Inflammatory proteins may also d the same, especially the well-known C-reactive protein (CRP). Coronary artery disease is, of course, characterized by a thickening of the blood vessel walls due to the buildup of proteins. And, as the course of the disease has it, blood clots then obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for heart function, and POW! – heart attack.
There is another likely mechanism which is similar to the first one. This is where the inflammation caused by gum disease increases plaque buildup in the blood vessels, which contributes to the swelling of the blood vessels.
Got gum disease? Get rid of it!