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Dentistry Ohio

'Living' Article June 2012- 'You' and periodontal concerns

Living

June 2012

 

Occasionally we can figure out the meaning of words by breaking them down and looking at the parts individually.  Within the dental world the word ‘periodontal’ is often used.  The first half of the word, ‘peri’ means around or surrounding.  The second half of the word, ‘dont’, indicates a tooth.  Put them together and you are referencing the tissue (gums, bones, ligaments) around a tooth.  Periodontal disease is a bacterial attack and destruction of these tissues that surround and support the teeth. 

In the presence of diseased periodontal tissues oral bacteria are more easily able to work their way through the tissue and into the blood stream.  For the past several years research has been ongoing to explore concerns that diseased periodontal tissues might be connected in some way with other ailments throughout the body.  Indeed everything from heart disease and some forms of cancer to the low birth weight of infants have been explored with an eye toward an influence from periodontal disease. 

In its online journal, “Circulation” the American Heart Association published an interesting report on April 18th.   According to the AHA recent research does NOT suggest that periodontal disease causes or increases the rates for heart disease or stroke.   Obviously this seems to be great news!  The American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs has voiced agreement with the AHA’s review and conclusions. 

“There is a lot of confusion out there”, says Dr. Peter Lockhart, an American Dental Association representative that served on the AHA’s committee.  “The message sent out by some in health care professions that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus on prevention away from well-known risk factors for these diseases.” 

We do commonly see the presence of heart disease and periodontal disease in the same patient.  Both diseases share a number of similar risk factors; smoking, age and diabetes for example.  According to the AHA’s new statement however, it would be “unwarranted” to suggest that a causative link exists between these two diseases. 

If you’re curious you can find more details by visiting www.ahajournals.org .

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