Question: The dentist told my husband that untreated gum disease can increase chances of heart attack. Is this true? J. S., Westwood
Answer: As far back as 1989, a case study in Finland demonstrated that patients with oral infection were 30% more likely to present with heart attack as compared to patients without oral infections. Subsequently, a large 14 year case study of 9760 people demonstrated that those with gum disease had a 25% increased risk of coronary heart disease as opposed to the people with minimal or no gum disease when adjusted for all other variables. Another study by Beck et al., showed that people with X-ray evidence of gum disease (bone loss) were 0.5-2.8 times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke than those without significant evidence.
It appears that there is an established link between gum (periodontal) disease and heart disease, but ongoing and future research should help to clarify exact reasons for this link and help to determine what methods of disease prevention are most effective. Should and will gum disease be listed among traditional cardiac risk factors? We’ll have to wait and see.