Heart Attack and Periodontal DiseaseResearch from a recent study has shown that patients on Medicare who had a heart attack or suffered a stroke over the course of five years were one and a half times more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event within four weeks of having a serious dental procedure or invasive treatment performed.

Certain oral diseases including periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, have been linked to stroke and heart attack in previous studies. Periodontal disease is the result of plaque and tartar building up beneath the gum line. This buildup can create infection and inflammation in the mouth that can spread throughout the body. The researchers noted that inflammation happens to be a response from the immune system that can be beneficial as the body tries to combat infection, but that chronic inflammation may cause health conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Studies have found that treatment of gum disease helps rid the mouth of bacteria, reducing inflammation over the long-term and thus decreases the risk of heart attack. However, the actual surgery to treat gum disease increases inflammation temporarily, which is likely why the chance of heart attack or stroke increases immediately after an invasive dental procedure. When asked whether it’s better to allow periodontal disease to remain or to treat it, the researchers answered that it is certainly better to treat the disease.

Protect Your Oral Health to Prevent Gum Disease

Of course, the best way to protect your oral health as well as your overall health is to prevent gum disease before it begins. Regular brushing and flossing are the first steps to good oral health, and regular visits to the dentist office are also an important part of ensuring that no major problems are developing. During a routine teeth cleaning, your dental hygienist will scrape away tartar and plaque at and just below the gum line, helping to prevent tartar buildup from extending any further and developing into gum disease.

Speak Up if You Had a Stroke

WebMD suggests that if you have already experienced a heart attack or stroke, it’s important to let your dentist know this when you go in for a routine checkup and especially before any major dental procedures. Increased inflammation in your mouth can and increase your chance of a heart attack, so letting your dentist know of any pre-existing conditions can help him or her treat you more effectively. The use of certain anesthesia can also increase your risk of a cardiac event, but if your dentist is aware of your heart health, he or she can use anesthesia without epinephrine, which will be safer for your heart.