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What is the connection between chronic tooth infections and heart disease?

Does it have something to do with an inflammatory response in the heart muscle, valves?

Featured Answer

9 UpVoted this answer
We know that there is a connection between chronic oral infections and heart disease. When there is a chronic infection in one's mouth, there is a breakdown of the barrier that protects the body from outside contamination. The toxins produced by germs in your mouth can cause damage to this barrier, opening up the body for the germs to get inside. Once inside, these germs must be killed in order for life to continue. The process of killing the germs produces inflammation. This inflammation causes scarring of the blood vessels, which leads to cholesterol build up on the vessel wall. As this build up continues, a portion can break off forming what is called an embolus. This embolus travels through the blood vessels until it causes a blockage. The most serious places for a blockage to occur are in the heart and brain. Blockages in these two areas cause heart disease (heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions) or strokes (also known as transient ischemic attacks or cerebral vascular attacks.
Thomas B. Krull
8 UpVoted this answer David J. Darab, DDS, MS Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Hickory
I think you are trying to ask a few different questions here.

1) If you have a specific issue with a heart valvue--mitral valve proplase with regurgitation, mitral regurgitation, etc, then there is a specific issue. When you clean the teeth the bacteria in your mouth will get into the bloodstream via the gums and for a few minutes you will have more than a normal level of bacteria in your blood. For the normal person this is not a problem. If you have a specific issue with a heart valve, the bacteria in the blood can sometimes get into the diseased valve, infect it, and then continue to spread infection. Since it is in the heart, it will continue to send bacteria in the blood all over the body. This is bad. This is why if you have a known heart issue, or in some cases a joint replacement, you take a dose of antibiotics before seeing the dentist. This would prevent or limit the bacteremia and limit the risk of dental procedures.

There is other preliminary research that having poor gum hygiene, infected teeth, or chronic tooth infections can be linked to higher rates of heart disease. I think the basic premise is that if you have infections in the gums then that would cause a more persistent higher level of bacteria in the blood--which would eventually do bad things to the heart. It makes sense on some level, but its not proven yet. Still, I would do your best to have healthy teeth and gums--you should do that anyway if you like to eat real food. Any heart benefit on top of it would certainly be a bonus!
5 UpVoted this answer
Published research has clearly established a relationship between chronic gingivitis and gingival /dental calcification and the development of coronary artery disease as well as cardiac valvular calcification. The old-school thought showed that strep infections caused cardiac valve leaflet scarring, but not calcification. Drs. Kajander & Ciftcioglu published many papers regarding dental/gingival calculus (calcification) and the relationship between coronary artery calcification and infection by CNPs (formerly called Nanobacteria). A Google Scholar search on Kajander, Ciftcioglu & Nanobacteria will pull up many scientific papers published in respectable medical/scientific journals. CNPs and therapies for such can be further researched by going to the website: http://www.nanobiotech.us Nanobiotech lists on the website many of the seminal papers regarding CNPs and effective therapeutics such as NanobacTX.
Gary S. Mezo
5 UpVoted this answer
Chronic tooth infections, different than periodontal disease, causes a stream of bacteria to enter the blood stream. This bacterial leads to risk of a heart infection better know as bacterial endocarditis.
Andrew W. Spath
2 UpVoted this answer
Paul Edwards is correct to a certain degree Chronic inflammation leads to an increase in CRP's. C-Reactive proteins. This is usually the result of gum disease(periodontits). CRP's are inflammatory intermediaries which when present at elevated levels can accelerate buildup and blockage in arteries of individuals with elevated cholesterol levels(atherosclerosis). Slightly different than an acute infection which can cause more immediate problems. Particularly in individuals with a history of bacterial endocarditis, those with a heart murmur with regurgitation, and or those with an artificial heart valve.
Andrew W. Spath
1 UpVoted this answer
There does appear to be an association between chronic periodontitis and coronary heart disease although the exact cause or association is not precisely known at this time. Many excellent research articles and information about this topic can be found at the American Dental Association Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry website; http://ebd.ada.org/en/evidence/ .
1 UpVoted this answer
Some studies have shown a link between some of the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease. These bacteria have been found in artherosclerotic plaque in the heart arteries as well as other areas of the body.

In addition chronic tooth infections mean there is possibly a reduced ability of your body to fight infections all over your body if dental treatment and good preventive care has not addressed the issue. This lowered immune status may be a sign of a systemic problem affecting the rest of your body including your heart.

You should always have dental infections treated and if they persist your dentist and your medical doctor should explore the cause and treat it as soon as possible to maintain not only your oral but overall health.
Hamida Shirazy
1 UpVoted this answer
Chronic tooth infections would likely produce some inflammatory reaction just as periodontal (gum+bone) infection does. So, there is a battle between bacteria and its released toxins versus the the body's immunological defenses. The outcome in both cases to the body is an increase in C-reactive protein production into the physiological system. This eventually creates a systemic inflammatory reaction from a localized area via the blood system's vessels. According to scientists studying heart disease in a Time magazine article some years back , this generalized inflammatory reaction resulting in C-reactive protein is a far greater risk for worsening of heart disease through the damage of the arteries, etc..and higher risk of a stroke than a high cholesterol level. So, it is very important to maintain consistent brushing and flossing routine to maintain healthy gum, bones and also generalized health of the body.
1 UpVoted this answer
Persistent bacteria, which is chronic in the tooth, may lead to bacteria getting into the blood and attaching to the heart tissue causing endocarditis. If there is an inflammatory response, it may cause white blood cells to release antibodies. If there is a persistent release of antibodies, it may cause an autoimmune infection where your immune cells will attack your own tissue.
Sergey Kuznetsov
1 UpVoted this answer
Yes, there is a correlation between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Adult patients with chronic periodontal disease are more predisposed to have subsequent heart disease.

The culprit is bacteria. In recent studies, the same bacteria found in calculus ( dental plaque that has mineralized and lies under the gums) has been found in atherosclerotic plaques lining coronary vessels.

It is essential that patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease see a dentist regularly for routine exams and cleanings.

Hope this helps!!!

Dr. Michael Shnorhavorian, DDS
Michael S. Shnorhavorian