Gingivitis and Heart Disease
There is a clear association between gum disease and heart disease. A 2004 study found that 91 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease also suffered from moderate to severe periodontal disease (Geerts 2004). While people with gum disease have a 25 percent greater risk of heart disease than those with healthy gums, researchers have only recently begun to uncover possible causes for this link. Researchers now believe that gum disease, which is inflammatory, causes the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals into the bloodstream, which triggers a systemic inflammatory response. Atherosclerosis is also an inflammatory disease, and many of the same factors that increase risk for heart disease also increase risk for gum disease, including C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, and cholesterol (Wu 2000).
This theory was supported by a recent study involving 5000 participants, which showed that oral inflammatory markers entering the bloodstream encouraged systemic inflammation (Noack 2001). This large study also confirmed that periodontal disease and body mass index are jointly associated with increased levels of CRP in assessing the risk of heart disease.