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What's the link between severe gum disease and heart disease?

While there is no conclusive research showing that severe gum disease causes heart disease, studies indicate that it may be associated with several health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes or stroke. 

But just because the two conditions are associated does not mean that one causes the other; it only means that some studies have shown that more people with gum disease experience one of the conditions mentioned above than people without gum disease. This finding could be the result of another factor, like smoking. For example, people who smoke are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer as well as gum disease. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to establish whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists and to determine if, or how, treating gum disease may affect your overall health.
Although more research needs to be done, some studies suggest that chronic severe gum disease (periodontitis) may be linked to a higher risk of strokes, heart disease, and clogged arteries.

Experts think that the bacteria that live in your mouth and cause the gum disease can lead to a chronic state of inflammation in the body, causing more plaque build-up in the blood vessels. This in turn may cause abnormally thick blood vessels near the heart (coronary arteries). These thickened coronary arteries, along with the fatty plaques that form on the artery walls, can lead to coronary artery disease.

Another possibility is that long-term gum disease may cause heart problems when bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can attach to plaques in the blood vessels surrounding your heart. These plaques can then form blood clots that can reduce, or even stop, blood flow to your heart, causing a heart attack.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.