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See your dentist to prevent a heart attack? Recently, the research journals and popular press have been pointing to a connection between our oral health and hygiene and our cardiovascular risk. Although there are several mediators, one stands out: periodontal or gum disease. The Journal of periodontology reported that inflammatory effects from periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, cause oral bacterial by products to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to produce substances that increase the risk of the heart disease. This is even true in patients who are edentulous (without teeth). Did you know that ill-fitting dentures can create infection and inflammation throughout the mouth that can trigger a systemic effect?
This inflammation is measurable! A substance produced in the body called high – sensitivity C reactive –protein (HS-CRP) is suspended to play a role in the link between gum disease and heart disease. This test is widely available from traditional labs. Sometimes, CRP is measured in lieu of HS-CRP. The difference? CRP indicates general inflammation while HS-CRP indicates arterial inflammation and increased risk for blood clots. Some studies estimate the HS-CRP is related to dental health over 50% of the time!
Initially thought to be specific to heart disease, it turns out HS-CRP is a nonspecific marker of inflammation. Inflammation is bad. Data from many studies have shown that long-standing, low levels of inflammation are at the root of most chronic diseases. Think of it this way: HS-CRP is the smoke, and it should put your physician on a search for fire! Unfortunately, many adults become lax with their oral health as they age. Frequently, it is because there are no symptoms. We need to think of our mouth as a car, needing frequent oil changes (dental cleanings) and scheduled maintenance (dental exams).
How do you know if you have periodontal disease? The simplest way is to identify periodontal pockets using a periodontal probe. Your dentist and hygienist use such a probe as part of their initial examination as well as your dental cleaning visit. The distance that the probe goes the gum line is a measure of periodontal damage. A normal measurement is 3mm or less. If you have pockets of 5 or more millimetres, these should be evaluated at every cleaning visit. They will usually improve. If they don’t improve, a referral to periodontist should be considered. While your physician and dentist are searching for the cause, proper Omega 3 supplementation and the dietary intake of healthy fats and oils has been shown to reduce HS-CRP.
In addition, a low-inflammatory diet, weight loss, exercise, and other positive lifestyle changes have an impact on both HS-CRP (inflammation) and other risk factors for chronic disease. If periodontal health is excellent, there are many other causes of elevated HS-CRP (inflammation) and other risk factors for chronic disease. If periodontal health is excellent, there are many other causes of elevated HS-CRP that should be investigated. These include vasculitis, cancer, bone infections, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, as well as others. Remember, we are chasing smoke. Only by finding the fire and addressing, it can overall health be improved
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