Periodontitis and the link with heart disease: can common oral bacteria b e eliminated to prevent heart disease?
Caron, Nicole Rose
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The importance of oral health on systemic health is a highly researched area of study in recent years. There has been a shift in dental visits from acute emergencies to ongoing preventative care due to the knowledge connecting oral and systemic health. One of the commonly researched connections is the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Periodontal disease is defined as inflammation of the gum tissue, resulting in periodontal pockets that can lead to infection, bone loss and even loss of the tooth. Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is a term that encompasses many different conditions of the heart, including heart failure, myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis and angina. There is constant research to better understand the relationship between the two diseases, as well as any causality that may exist. Recent studies have been able to link the diseases, but no causal link has been found. The role of the bacteria involved in both diseases has recently been considered to see if these organisms are related to a potential causal link. Two particular bacteria that are known to be involved with periodontal disease are Porphyromona gingivalis and Treponema denticola. These bacteria are present when a patient develops periodontal disease, but they are not usually present in a healthy individual. Additionally, the bacteria that make up the contents of plaque found in the heart have been studied to see if there are any similarities with oral microbes. It has been found that oral bacteria can be present in arterial plaque samples. This research may allow a better understanding of how and why heart disease occurs and potentially serve as a way to treat heart disease accompanied by periodontal disease, if a causal relationship is elucidated. Heart disease is usually a devastating disease, sometimes resulting in the death of the patient. If more patients attend the dentist as a preventative measure, the risk of periodontal disease and associated pathologies may be reduced. Additionally, those that have already developed periodontal disease can work with a dental professional to reverse the disease. It is known that the bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream upon infection, so patients with suspected periodontitis should be treated to avoid the bacteria from entering the blood and affecting other organs such as the heart. An examination of the bacteria commonly found in the oral cavity at times of periodontal disease may lead to a better understanding of how and why these bacteria invade the bloodstream. It would be beneficial to compare the microbiota of both the plaque in the mouth and the plaque in a vessel supplying the heart in a patient suffers from heart disease. This understanding may lead to therapeutic interventions that aid in the prevention of bacteria traveling in the bloodstream. For many Americans, oral health care was believed to end at home by brushing and flossing. However, it is important to see a dental professional to avoid any possible complications that may not be apparent to the untrained eye. A simple dental cleaning may be important to detect the start of periodontal disease, and treatment can be initiated to end the potential spread of bacteria. It is important to maintain positive oral health in order to maintain overall systemic health, including the avoidance of heart disease.