In what is possibly the largest study of its kind, researchers have found a significant connection between periodontal disease and first-time heart attack. Results were published in the journal Circulation.
In this large, case-control study, 805 patients who had recently had their first heart attack were compared to 805 age-, gender-, and area-matched control subjects who had never had a heart attack. Both groups underwent a dental examination and panoramic X-ray and were defined as healthy or with mild to moderate or severe periodontal disease.
After adjusting for many potential confounding factors, researchers determined that there was an increased risk for heart attack among those with periodontal disease. Indeed, periodontal disease was more common in the heart attack patients than in controls.
The study authors concluded by reiterating that periodontitis appears to be an independent risk factor for heart attack—but more specifically, first-time heart attack. And while they acknowledge that this research does not prove causality, they did highlight the fact that it is still highly valuable when it comes to patient care:
“This observation should increase the interest in preventing and treating periodontal disease with the intention to improve both dental and cardiovascular health in the population.”
Periodontal disease is a medical problem with a dental solution that can help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and a number of other inflammatory diseases. Periodontal disease may not be the sole cause of cardiovascular disease, but a growing mountain of evidence clearly demonstrates that microbial burden and inflammatory response involved with periodontal disease contribute to heart disease progression.
Dentistry has always been one of the few medical sects specializing in prevention, and the oral-systemic health connection adds a whole new dimension to that. The future of dentistry is fully aligned with overall health, and it is therefore essential to take a multi-disciplinary, integrated, and coordinated wellness approach in order to get upstream from problems. In reducing the effects of poor oral health on overall health, there is an enormous opportunity to help prevent and reduce the risks and complications of many of our deadliest and costliest diseases, including heart disease.