Gum disease may increase risk for heart rhythm disease

Credit: Enis Yavuz / Unsplash

Periodontitis, a gum disease, can lead to a litany of dental issues from bad breath to bleeding and lost teeth.

In a study from Hiroshima University, scientists found that it could be connected to even more severe problems elsewhere in the body—the heart.

The team found a strong link between periodontitis and fibrosis (which is scarring to an appendage of the heart’s left atrium that can lead to an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation).

Periodontitis is associated with a long-standing inflammation, and inflammation plays a key role in atrial fibrosis progression and atrial fibrillation pathogenesis.

In the study, the team examined a sample of 76 patients with cardiac disease.

The left atrial appendages were surgically removed from the patients, and the researchers analyzed the tissue to establish the correlation between the severity of the atrial fibrosis and the severity of the gum disease.

They found that the worse the periodontitis, the worse the fibrosis, suggesting that the inflammation of gums may intensify inflammation and disease in the heart.

This study provides basic evidence that periodontitis can aggravate atrial fibrosis and can be a novel modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation.

According to the team, in addition to improving other risk factors such as weight, activity levels, tobacco and alcohol use, periodontal care could aid in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management.

However, they cautioned that this study did not establish a causal link, meaning that while gum disease and atrial fibrosis degrees of severity appear connected, researchers have not found that one definitively leads to the other.

Further evidence is needed for establishing that periodontitis contributes to atrial fibrosis in a causal manner and that periodontal care can alter fibrosis.

One of the study’s goals is to confirm that periodontitis is a modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation and to promote dental specialists’ participation in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management.

Next, the researchers hope to conduct future clinical studies to clarify if periodontal intervention reduces atrial fibrillation occurrence and improves patient outcomes.

If you care about gum health, please read studies about four health conditions linked to gum disease, and new gel could treat gum disease by fighting inflammation.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies about best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

The study was conducted by Shunsuke Miyauchi et al and published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.

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