How Gum Disease Contributes to Heart Attack Risk
So how does gum disease affect your heart? We’ve talked about this in more detail elsewhere, but here we’ll focus primarily on the ways that gum disease links to heart attack risk.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to your heart gets blocked. Blocking is caused by either a blood clot or a broken-off piece of arterial plaque. Even if arterial plaque doesn’t directly cause an infarction, it narrows the artery to make blockage more likely.
Gum disease contributes to the buildup of arterial plaque and the narrowing of your arteries in three ways:
- Oral bacteria live in arterial plaque
- Oral bacteria alter your cholesterol
With these three powerful mechanisms, of course, it makes sense that gum disease would be linked to heart attacks. Getting gum disease treatment from a Boston dentist can help you protect your heart health.
Bacteria Trigger Inflammation
One of the biggest contributors to atherosclerosis is systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation plays numerous roles in atherosclerosis. Inflammation of the arterial lining narrows the blood vessels. Inflammatory chemicals also have a significant impact on the development and breaking free of arterial plaque.
Oral bacteria contribute to systemic inflammation by triggering an ongoing immune response. Gum disease is, after all, an active infection that your body feels it must respond to. Oral bacteria can also trigger localized immune responses when it travels through the blood to increase inflammation at the site of arterial plaque.
Bacteria Live in Arterial Plaque
In addition to triggering inflammation, oral bacteria directly contribute to the growth of arterial plaque. Oral bacteria colonize the arteries, living on and in the arterial plaque.
Surveys of bacteria living in arterial plaque have identified five species of oral bacteria that seem to exclusively colonize the blood vessels of the heart. Most of these are associated with severe gum disease. Some are also associated with tooth infections. These bacteria set up communities that can thrive in the plaque environment, contributing to atherosclerosis.
Oral Bacteria Alter Your Cholesterol
You know that cholesterol is one of the main components of arterial plaque. However, did you know that oral bacteria can change the cholesterol in your blood? It can. Certain chemicals released by oral bacteria trigger lipid peroxidation, an attack on cholesterol that plays a key step in the formation of arterial plaque.
By increasing this attack on your cholesterol, oral bacteria can speed up the formation of arterial plaque.