Study links gum disease to heart disease, strokes

A new academic report links chronic gum disease to strokes and heart disease

A new study has added to the evidence that chronic gum disease can be linked to stroke and heart disease, according to a Globe and Mail report.

The report, conducted by the Academic Centre for Dentistry in Amsterdam, surveyed more than 60,000 dental patients. Those with gum disease were twice as likely to have had a stroke, heart attack or severe chest pain. While only 2% of patients with periodontitis suffered from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, that number jumped to 4% among patients with periodontitis, the study found. While previous studies have suggested the link, this is the first to investigate it in a group that large, researchers said.

According to the Globe and Mail, periodontitis sufferers were 59% more likely to have a history of heart problems than others, even after controlling for other risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Periodontal disease is an advanced stage of the gum disease gingivitis, according to the Globe and Mail. It’s also been tied to conditions like skin disease and dementia.

“It’s clear that periodontitis is associated with chronic inflammation, so it makes sense biologically that if you have a heavy infection on your mouth, you also have a level of inflammation that will contribute to heart conditions,” Panos Papapanou of Columbia University told the Globe and Mail. Papapanou wasn’t involved in the Amsterdam study but has studied the link between gum disease and heart disease.

Despite these findings, researchers caution that the study doesn’t prove that gum disease actually causes heart disease – merely that the two are often correlated.

“The association does not provide proof (of causation), even when the results of our study corroborate findings from previous similar research,” study co-author Geert van der Heijden said.

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