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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?
Poster

Featured Answer

(1) Upvoted
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!
(1) Upvoted
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
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.
(1) Upvoted
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.
(1) Upvoted
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
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.
(1) Upvoted
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
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
(1) Upvoted
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
(1) Upvoted
Not necessarily in the valves, but the inflammatory mediators create and environment that builds plaques in the walls of arteries and veins. The possibility of getting a clogged vessel is much more significant when a chronic inflammatory process (especially gum disease) is present.
Dale, inflammation of the gums raises the C-reactive protein, thought to be the culprit in heart disease. Also oral bacteria have been found inthe plaques that block arteries. aso , brush well 2 times a day floss and or water pik daily wth 25 %listerine mouthwash and water.
Constantin Fiacos
There are several negative factors impacting human organism. One of them is Chronic Inflammation. We have never considered it as a separate entity, it always been there and we knew that body has all the resources designed to fight it. American Heart Association has done great job of identifying Chronic Inflammatory Disease as major factor leading to many known heath condition as Diabetes, Heart and Coronary problems, Cancer etc. The main source of infection in the Human body is the Oral chamber. Poor oral hygiene creates comforting environment for present microbes in the oral chamber which may leak into the bloodstream through the damaged gum tissue. Changes in Oral conditions are promoting changes in General health. The enzymes Human organism releases in response to chronic inflammation are leading to damage and failure in the system or specific organ.
Most diseases that we suffer from in our last three decades are according to the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins are pediatric in origin meaning those chronic situations (Cholesterol, Inflammatory or low grade infections) left will lead to many diseases down the road. Seewww.cdc.com and read the Surgeon Generals report on links of oral health to full body health. Sincerely, Stace D. Lind, D.M.D., M.A.G.D., F.I.C.D.
Dr. Stace Lind
The bacterial deposit can dislodge and travel along the blood stream then end up in the heart valve, causing dangerous endocarditis.
A study just published this November in the Journal of Periodontal Research made this conclusion: "Oral infection induces alterations in systemic cytokine (inflammatory chemicals) production. These cytokines could play roles in the development not only of periodontitis but also of atherosclerosis."
Well, I agree in that this is an excellent question. The first thing is that Chronic infection of any origin is impacting on all your organ systems because of two things. First, the chronic presence of an undesirable bacteria implies the numbers of that bacteria become highly elevated (their populations multiply extremely fast) and your body will launch a Response (which is damaging in and of itself) to the infection that will be as Chronic as the Infection itself. It's not long before we can be pretty sure that the bacteria are present in your vascular system and that means travelling through your heart's chambers and valves. So, again, it's a question of how long the infection, how many bacteria and where are they lodging or colonizing and has the immune response controlled the situation or not? If You want to eliminate the worry come in to your Dentist's office and fix it, ie-take care of the tooth or remove it, by all means do so, and replace it with healthy structure. If you do, It will benefit your mouth and your heart as well as your overall sense of 'fitness'.
Sahar Tawfik
This was answered most completely by Dr. David Feig.
(below)
If you have defective, damaged, or artificial heart valves, the bacteria from any chronic or acute infection, including dental,can seed the bloodstream with bacteria that can then lodge on those damaged heart valves and grow colonies there and cause serious damage and illness.
Terry Pratt DDS- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Terry Pratt
http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.2005.76.11-S.2085%20
Reasearch shows a potential link between chronic periodontal disease and cardiovascular health, but at this point it is not clear. The dental profession has embraced this to help motivate patients have the care they need to have a healthy mouth.
OR you may be asking about an acute bacterial infection that travels to your heart. That can kill you.
My families electrician died from that condition.
Also, read Dr. John Robinson's response too, please.
Chronic tooth infection results in bacteria release into the bloodstream circulating to the heart and all other organs. This bacteria causes an immune response which results in inflammation in the heart walls, valves and in other organs. Inflammation is very damaging and must be limited. This is why it is so important for the well being of whole body to keep excellent oral health.
What an excellent question! As the numerous great answers show, some of the many different bacteria in the mouth have been shown by numerous studies to correlate to bacteria found at damaged sites in our body including heart and blood vessel tissues. It could be possible that the bacteria in your mouth travels to the heart for example during a tooth or gum abscess. I could also be possible that the mouth bacteria is an indication of the same bacteria already existing in your body. Keep in mind that there are other contributing factors to inflammation and damage to your body and heart, many of which are well documented. They will contribute to the bacterial damage.
Something called Endocarditis: Inflammation of the inner layer of the heart, usually involving the heart valves. Non-treated infections of the teeth can travel via the blood stream and cause this condition. Simply stated, the area of the oral cavity (tissue, tongue, teeth) is kept separate from the blood stream. Once bacteria penetrate to the blood (deep cavities in the pulp, abscesses, etc) these separate compartments are compromised. Thus, the bacteria can then use the bloodstream as a highway yo get to the heart, lungs, kidneys... pretty much anywhere!

Inflammation=NOT GOOD. Bacteria, infection, trauma= INFLAMMATION. Solution= limit inflammation
This is a great question and I am happy you have asked it as many people are unaware of the relationship between oral bacteria and heart disease. The saying" if you want to take care of your heart, take care of your teeth," has been shown true in study after study to be absolute. Dr. Krull below does an excellent job in describing how inflammation effects are blood vascular system and how clots and blockages can readily develop. Moreover those "plaques" or blockages, once removed and cultured, invariable show the same bacteria in their content that exist only in the mouth. Periodontal health, and the prevention of gum disease and tooth infection are critical to the health of the heart and other vital organs. Thank you again for asking this important question. DGHill
Daniel G. Hill
The bacteria from your mouth can get into your blood stream and cause other problems in your body like your heart. This infection travels throughout your body and can cause serious problems elsewhere.
Mark Morin
Infection in your body creates an inflammatory response. An inflammatory response is your body's way of fighting off infection and keeping it from spreading to the rest of your body. The response gives off a chemical that travels in your blood stream and likes to hook onto your blood vessels and heart. The chemical then irritates these places.
The latest studies have shown that the bacteria which is responsible for tooth decay and gum disease is the same bacteria that flows through the heart. This bacteria initiates a inflammatory response in the blood vessels that ultimately lead to high blood pressure and conornary artery disease. The bacteria is directly related to hardening of the arteries and damage to the heart valves. Therefore the healthier you keep your mouth free from bacteria , the healthier your heart will be in the long run. Dr. Fred Puccio
Simply put, any chronic infection of the body can cause health problems. Specifically, the bacteria and the toxins produced by the inflammatory response can influence the heart and blood vessels causing heart damage leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Richard A. Schwartz
Controlling Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is from the Latin, inflammare, which means to set on fire and is part of the bodies response to disease causing bacteria and toxins. The body initiates healing from an injury like a cut with a reaction that produces red, tender and swollen tissue. This reaction allows healing cells from the blood stream to infiltrate the injured tissue to kill bacteria, remove damaged cells and grow new tissue. The inflammation of the typical healing process is temporary.


It is when inflammation is not quickly resolved with healing that local inflammatory factors can spread throughout the whole body. Inflammation can then become a wildfire that spreads out of control causing tissue destruction distant to the site of the original infection. This chronic inflammation can result in atherosclerosis, the blood vessel disease of heart attacks and stokes. Evidence of chronic inflammation in the mouth is the red, tender and swollen gums of periodontal disease. The earliest and easiest stage of periodontal disease to treat is gingivitis.


That's why your routine dental check-ups and cleanings are so important - not just for the health of your teeth and gums, but for your general health. Visit Adult Dentistry of Rochester for your next periodic dental check-up and cleaning where we check the health of the gums with a complete periodontal exam at every visit and thoroughly remove the deposits of bacterial plaque which fuel the fire of gingival inflamation.
Chronic tooth infections, such as gum disease, produce toxins that can be carried from the oral cavity to the heart and other organs via the blood stream. These toxins can cause inflammation and irritation to major areas of concern, such as the heart muscles and valves. Waste products, such as pus from the infected mouth area, can "clog" the vessels and increase the risk of heart attack and disease. There truly is a relationship between poor oral health and the overall medical health of the patient. See your dentist as soon as possible if you note swollen or bleeding gums.
Lots of research is showing that the inflammation in your mouth can possibly elevate a chemical in your bloodstream that can also affect the inside lining of blood vessels, specifically the ones that lead to your heart. This can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as diabetes. See your dentist, as it's never a good idea to leave a chronic infection untreated!
Franz Weyandt
Although gingivitis is linked to many chronic illnesses, its relationship to heart disease is linked to streptococcol infections in the mouth infecting heart valves and making them less efficient.
Gerald F. Congdon
Hey Dale. We know that there is a correlation between an ongoing tooth or gum infection and heart disease. The amount of connection or correlation between the two is affected by lifestyle choices, family history, and daily care of your teeth and gums. As far as the inflammatory response, yes it is a factor and the main thing to remember is to keep inflammation or lack of health to a minimum when to the heart and gums and that means great home care and regular dental visits according to your personal needs.
If you have bad chronic tooth infections, this could lead to constant bacteremia or seeding the blood fro the bacteria arising from the tooth or gum infections. If the bacteria ends up on the heart valve tissue, it could cause an infection to arise on that valve tissue which could then further spread bacteria elsewhere to other parts of the body. This infection of the heart valve tissue is called endocarditis.
Alvin K. Eng
One hypothesis is there is some sort of connection between gum disease and heart disease related to the bacteria strains involved with gum disease. Many chronic tooth infections contain the same bacteria strains as found in gum disease. These bacteria may have an affinity to damaged or compromised heart tissues and can cause problems if they start to colonize there. At least that's one hypothesis.

It's also possible the relationship is in part also casual -- those who don't take care of their teeth also tend to have life styles that don't take good care of the rest of their body, including heart.

The two hypothesis combined make for a very potent problem. Most likely, reality is based somewhere in between.

Either way, the best solution is to take good care of your teeth and gums with regular brushing and flossing (or tooth picking) as well as take good care of the rest of your health with a properly balanced diet and exercise appropriate for your age and other health conditions.
Chronic tooth infections may potentially cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream and may possibly lead to inflammation of the inner lining of the heart muscles. It depends on the severity, duration, and longevity of the chronic tooth infection and the health of the individual patient. It is always best to have your dentist evaluate the condition to get a more accurate diagnosis for each specific case.
There is no known direct coronary response to chronic tooth infections. However, long term periodontal infections seem to have systemic responses, some of which can have coronary effects. Most oral infections stay localized.Certainly, chronic oral infections should be properly diagnosed and appropriate medical consultations made as needed.
Lewis Specker Jr
Sort of...the chronic inflammation of the gums increases the chance that the quiet atheroscerosis in the arteries will get disrupted and open up a plaque in the vessel which forms a blood clot and causes a heart attack. Chronically the body response to the infection increases the defense mechanisms to kill the bacteria but this is dangerous for the lining of the arteries.
James E. Schmidt
Yes the inflammatory response is focused in the heart muscle and the valves can be damaged by a bacterial infection, usually strep originated, but there are other organisms at play
Mercury from dental fillings has been shown to concentrate in heart tissue as well.
It does, and research and clinical observation shows this.
Eliot Folickman
It has been determined that a cause of heart disease is from a chronic infection somewhere in the body, and periodontal disease has been shown to be a source of this problem. The same applies to a chronic tooth infection.
Eliot Folickman
Periodontal disease causes chronic inflammation in the gum tissue around the teeth. Researchers believe inflammatory chemicals released into the blood stream might affect the heart and associated arteries. There can also be heart valve infections that have been linked to oral bacteria, though not necessarily from periodontal pathogens. True dental infections (decay) are not really released into the blood stream unless they reach the nerve/pulp of the tooth and cause an abscess. Please make an appointment to discuss your concerns further.
Noah Dehlinger
The previous responses to this question are pretty much right on - there seems to be a two-fold mechanism of periodontal disease causing CV disease. One is by directly contributing to clot formation, the other is by contributing to swelling of the arterial walls via an inflammatory response. Research has found patient with periodontal disease to be twice as likely to be suffering from coronary artery disease. All the more reason to floss :)

Dr. Ingo Mahn, AIAOMT, Doctor of Integrative Medicine www.MyNaturalDentist.com
anachoresis is where bacteria from any chronic source like a tooth infection travel to the heart and lodge on atherosclerotic plaque, grow and cause endocarditis.
Robert A. Stoner
You are right. It is the inflammatory response that affects the heart muscle. Periodontal disease is closely linked to heart disease. Some doctors feel that heart disease is a form of scurvy, vit C deficiency. No vit C means low immunity and susceptibility to infection and inflammation.
Daniel L. Kaser
The problem comes from bacterial infections around the teeth and gums can "seed" into the blood stream. The heart valves can be particularly susceptible to free floating bacteria in the blood. This can set up a heart infection in the valves or the heart muscle itself, we call this endocarditis. This condition can be quite serious if allowed to go on too long. Please keep your teeth and gums in good shape to avoid this potentially fatal condition.
William M Spurlock
Oral infection may affect the cause and pathogenesis of systemic diseases including cardiovascular diseases. Three mechanisms.
"Spread of infection from the oral cavity as a result of transient bacteremia. Metastatic injury from the effects of circulating oral microbial toxins, and metastatic inflammation caused by immunological injury induced by oral microorganisms. Periodontitis as a major oral infection may affect the host's susceptibility to systemic disease in three ways: by shared risk factors; subgingival biofilms acting as reservoirs of gram-negative bacteria; and the periodontium acting as a reservoir of inflammatory mediators"
Shari Mathew
The Drs that answered so far did a great job explaining the correlation. Bottom line, a chronic infection of any sort should be treated.