By P Piero D.D.S.
Although many studies have been conducted on the relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease in general, few studies have been done specifically on Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and how it relates to periodontal disease.
The Mayo Clinic defines PAD as, “a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. Extremities – usually your legs – don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking.
Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs.”
The Center for Disease Control defines periodontal disease as, “infections of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out.” They also state that 47.5% of the population in the US over 30 have periodontal disease.
A recent 2012 study, reported in The Journal of Periodontology, found that subjects with periodontal disease were six times more likely to have PAD than subjects without periodontal disease. This supports an early 1980/1990 study on the relationship between PAD and periodontal disease that concluded that men with periodontal disease had a significantly higher risk of PAD.
Any infection in the body triggers your own body’s defense mechanism to kick in and attack the area of infection. An infection or disease raises the C-reactive protein (CRP) in the body. CRP indirectly tell your spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, adrenal glands, liver and blood constituent-making-places in your body to make more of the exact same type of defensive cells to destroy a specific organism or bacteria. This is fine for a one time infection. The trouble is periodontal disease is chronic, so your body is in a never-ending cycle of producing CRP to fight the prolonged infection. The process is taxing to the system. Your body’s immune system is constantly fighting the bugs and in turn, making your body weak and vulnerable to other systemic disease.
In addition, the CRP inflames the inner lumen of all your arteries and veins, clogging them and putting you at a higher risk of PAD. Imagine you have a 5/8 inch garden hose at 40 pounds per square inch that puts out 2 gallons of water every minute. Now something is being deposited in the hose restricting the water, the flow is reduced, or in the case of the body, restricting the blood flow to the essential organs, starving organs and vital tissues of their necessary nutrients.
It can’t be overlooked that periodontal disease and all the cardiovascular diseases share other common risk factors such as smoking, diet, diabetes, and age. However, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or are suffering from painful PAD in your legs and feet, you should also be undertaking good home dental care and getting professional dental cleanings. Why would you let your mouth affect your feet?
Dr. Piero, a practicing dentist for over twenty five years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force ( http://www.dentalairforce.com ). Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science, a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines and soon-to-be published book, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.