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'Risk of heart disease increases by 34% in people with gum and periodontal disease' (Expert interview)

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : June 10, 2014 3:40 PM IST

Dentist-interviewHypertension and gum disease are two sides of the same coin. Improper nutritional habits, lack of physical activity, stress, smoking, age, obesity, lipid disorders and diabetes mellitus are commonly accepted as the risk factors for hypertension. Most of these elements are also responsible in contributing to another malady known as periodontitis (gum disease). Hence, there exists a two way relationship between hypertension and periodontitis, wherein infection of gums can affect heart and other organs and vice versa. Dr Anitha Anchan from www.thehealthsite.com asked Dr Richard Pereira and Dr Himani Gupta from Gum Care Dental Clinic in Mumbai a few questions about how hypertension can cause gum disease and vice versa:

Dr Anitha: When you think of high blood pressure the last thing that comes to your mind is gum disease. But we do hear there is a two-way relationship between them. Please tell us more.

Dr Richard Pereira: Like any hollow tube which transports a fluid inside it, our blood vessels have a certain resistance to the flow of blood. In case of hypertension, this resistance increases and flow of blood is hampered. Blood vessels all over the body are affected and so are so those in the gums. This causes decreased blood supply, oxygen and nutrition thus affecting the health of the gums and the periodontium (supporting structure connecting the tooth and the gums). It also impairs the healing capacity of the tissues resulting in untimely loss of tooth.

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Dr Himani Gupta: That's not all. Gum disease can worsen heart disease as well. Due to hypertension, a mass called as an atheroma is produced in the walls of the blood vessel. Untreated gum disease (periodontitis) provides a significant and persistent reservoir of bacteria and their products. These can lodge into the atheroma and when coupled with cholesterol deposition, become a source of infection. This bacteria-laden atheroma may travel to different organs (embolism) and subsequently may lead to heart attack or stroke.

Dr Anitha: The connection is amazing. Thanks for enlightening our audience about it. So, logically, if one keeps his gums healthy, it can help in preventing heart disease? Can you give us some tips to do so?

Dr Richard Pereira: It has been estimated that the risk of having a heart attack increases by 34% if the patient suffers from gum disease as well. These statistics make it imperative that light be thrown upon the prevention of periodontitis. Firstly, a timely check-up by your dentist is advisable along with scaling and root planing so as to eliminate bacterial reservoirs in dental plaque. As bacteria can travel from the gums into the circulation during routine activities like chewing and flossing, care has to be taken to destroy these disease causing bacteria by adhering to recommended brushing technique and use of a good mouthwash. These measures can prevent periodontitis related hypertensive complications provided that the other risk factors are in control as well. In short, healthy gums give you a healthy heart.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.

Dr Anitha:Do the drugs prescribed for hypertension have any effect on gums? If so, what can be done about it?

Dr Himani Gupta: Hypertension may be controlled with an assortment of anti-hypertensive drugs. Calcium channel blockers are one such group of drugs that may have a side effect of producing gum overgrowth or enlargement. The outgrowth of gums lead to aesthetic disfigurement, difficulty in chewing food, problems in speaking (phonetics) and hindrance in oral hygiene maintenance. These areas may also get secondarily infected resulting in bluish red discoloration of gums that bleed easily.

This problem can be counteracted by altering the type of anti-hypertensive drug by physician's consent. If the growths persist, removal or excision (gingivectomy) can be done by a gum surgeon (periodontist). Oral hygiene measures should be reinforced. Nutrition should be taken care of such that it is well supplemented with antioxidants and potassium.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stroke.

Gumcare Multispeciality Dental Clinic is managed by Dr Richard Pereira and Dr Himani Gupta. For further details, visit their site.

For more on heart disease, check out our heart disease section. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates! For daily free health tips, sign up for our newsletter. And to join discussions on health topics of your choice, visit our forum.

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