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Dental Health and Systemic Diseases

Saving Smiles — Saving Lives

Recent studies suggest that people with periodontal disease have nearly twice the risk of a fatal heart attack and three times the risk of stroke as those without periodontal disease. This may be because oral bacteria attach to atherosclerotic plaques in arteries, thus contributing to their rupture and subsequent clot formation.

A two-year study of 144,000 insured patients by Aetna and the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine released in March, 2006, found that earlier periodontal treatment reduced overall medical care costs by 16 percent for coronary artery disease and 11 percent for cerebrovascular disease or stroke!

Since periodontal disease is treatable and almost 100 percent preventable, our patients now have a vital, even potentially life-saving reason — beyond just a pretty smile and comfortable chewing — to make sure they have healthy mouths.

Death from cardiovascular disease has become epidemic. Heart disease and stroke cause more than 50 percent of all deaths in the United States. That’s almost one million deaths per year — 330,000 sudden deaths — one every two minutes! Preventing many of these deaths is possible if we encourage our patients to follow these 6 D’s:

Diagnose! The most common major signal of angina and possibly an impending heart attack is a feeling of pressure under the sternum brought on by exercise and relieved by rest. Sudden sweating, shortness of breath and referred pain to the left arm, lower jaw or other areas may occur. It is not a sharp pain over the heart.

Don’t Deny or Delay! Most of the time there are warning signs before a heart attack. (See Diagnose.) Don’t take the attitude: “Don’t worry, honey, it’s only indigestion!” Half of all heart attacks occur in people with no risk factors; 70 percent occur when a smaller non-occluding plaque ruptures and a clot forms. It Can Happen to You!
Do Call 911 with one or more of the above signs and get to an emergency room immediately. Early clot dissolving therapy can greatly reduce heart and/or brain damage in some types of heart attacks. Balloon angioplasty of blocked heart attacks within 90 minutes will also greatly reduce heart damage.

Defibrillate immediately if unresponsive with no pulse. In cardiac arrest, the best chance of survival occurs in the first three minutes. Survival drops ten percent per minute. It is 90 percent at one minute and 0 percent at ten minutes. Emergency Medical Response is unlikely to arrive in time. Train yourself and others how to use a defibrillator. Immediately after one shock, begin CPR. The new American Heart Association CPR guidelines call for five cycles of 30 hard and fast chest compressions first followed by two short one-second breaths.

Develop a Doctor Relationship. Get annual physicals. Don’t say: “I’m too busy, I’ll do it later.” Take statins and aspirin if advised. A recent study of 59,094 new statin users published in the European Heart Journal documented a 30 to 40 percent reduction in heart attacks after two years of statin use compared to those who didn’t take their recommended dose of statins. The American Heart Association recommends an optimum LDL of under 100.

Do Make Life Style Changes Early to prevent heart attack! Twenty percent of adults age 30 -34 already have advanced plaque formation. The incidence of heart attacks can be reduced by two-thirds with a low fat diet, weight control, exercise, not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption and blood pressure control.

Your General Health Depends on the Health of Your Mouth

Over the past few years, studies have shown a definitive link between your oral health and your general health. In addition to heart disease, here are a few of the many health problems that can be aggravated by poor oral health.


  • Patients with adult periodontitis may have increased risk of stroke.

Respiratory infections

  • Inhaling bacteria from the mouth and throat can lead to pneumonia.
  • Dental plaque buildup creates a dangerous source of bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs.

Severe Osteopenia

  • Osteoporosis is associated with gum disease and related tooth loss.
  • The severity of osteopenia has been connected to tooth loss in post menopausal women.

Uncontrolled Diabetes

  • Chronic periodontal disease can disrupt diabetic control.
  • Diabetes can contribute to bacterial overgrowth in the mouth.
  • Smokers with diabetes increase their risk of tooth loss by 20 times.
  • People with Type II diabetes are three times as likely to develop periodontal disease as nondiabetics.

Pre-Term or Low Birthweight Babies

  • Women with advanced gum disease may be more likely to give birth to an underweight or preterm baby.
  • Oral microbes can cross the placental barrier, exposing the fetus to infection.

Advanced remedies are available to control or eliminate periodontal disease, including antimicrobial mouthwashes and certain medications.

We routinely give our patients a full periodontal evaluation as well as information about the latest developments in periodontal treatment.

Take the First Step Towards a Better Smile