New research has strengthened our understanding of the link between heart disease and periodontitis (gum disease). Visiting the dentist and dental hygienist regularly can help prevent serious systemic problems caused by poor dental health. Click here to learn more about the importance of good dental care. 

Periodontitis and heart disease share a common pathogen, P. ginivalis. A recent study found that P. ginivalis alters gene expression which increases inflammation and plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart. This triggers and hastens coronary heart disease.

Below is a more detailed exploration of this new research and is a reminder to see your hygienist regularly to not only protect your teeth and gums, but also your heart and overall systemic health.

The study, published in Microbiological Research, has clarified the mechanism behind a known link between gum disease and heart disease. Periodontitis, which results in an infection that damages the soft-tissue surrounding teeth and the bone supporting the teeth, is commonly caused by P. gingivalis. After an initial infection, P. gingivalis continues to colonize tissues of the mouth for long periods of time. The same bacterium, P. gingivalis is commonly found within the arterial plaques common to heart disease patients.

The authors of the study discovered that the bacterium increases production of the pro-inflammatory protein angiopoietin 2 and decreases expression of the anti-inflammatory protein angiopoietin 1 which promotes plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart. This was discovered by infecting cultured human aortic smooth muscle cells with P. ginivalis. After P. ginivalis was injected into the cells, the bacterium released ginipains, which are enzymes that change the ratio between different inflammatory proteins in such a way that inflammation is increased in the heart blood vessel cells.

This study is significant because it helps to pinpoint the relationship between periodontitis and heart disease.