Educating Your Periodontal Patients on Their Risk for Heart Disease

In previous issues, I discussed how periodontal disease is among several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, that can be caused by inflammation.

In fact, scientists have identified biologic factors, which independently link periodontal disease to the development or progression of cardiovascular disease in some patients. These factors include the effects of periodontal pathogens on endothelial tissue as well as systemic inflammatory mediators.

The longitudinal, interventional research that is needed to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease has not yet been conducted; therefore, it is irresponsible to imply that treating periodontal disease has no effect on cardiovascular disease risk.

However, despite the present absence of interventional data, there remains enough evidence to support a strong association between these two chronic diseases.

For example, researchers have noted when a person has gum disease or heart disease, markers of inflammation – like C-reactive protein – may be produced which could explain some of the association.

Also, lifestyle factors such as smoking, age, and having diabetes, can bring on or aggravate an inflammatory response, and are all risk factors for gum disease as well as heart disease.

Therefore, I believe it is prudent as healthcare professionals that we continue to educate our patients of the elevated risk of cardiovascular disease associated with periodontal disease.