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Gum Disease Linked to Atrial Fibrillation

Gum Disease Linked to Atrial Fibrillation

Are patients who suffer from periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – at a higher risk for atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation? As your Sonora, CA dentist continually highlights in our blog, the mouth/body connection is very real and could have a lasting impact on those with poor oral health. In the first population-based study that actively looked at a possible connection between gum disease and atrial fibrillation, researchers have reported findings that could have implications for those who choose to neglect their oral health.

In the study, researchers examined the records of nearly 800,000 patients trying to understand the possible connection between periodontal disease and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. While previous studies had linked inflammation in the development and severity of periodontal disease to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, this marks the first time a study examined whether gum disease could increase a patient’s risk for atrial fibrillation.

Irregular Heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation ranks as the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia in the world and the condition occurs when a person’s heart has an irregular heartbeat, whether too fast or too slow. Potential consequences of atrial fibrillation include thromboembolic disease and heart failure. Previous studies have found that inflammation plays an important role in how atrial fibrillation begins and progresses in patients.

Periodontitis is an inflammatory disorder caused by a bacterial infection that has an oral and systemic impact on the body, including inflammation.

As part of their study, researchers reviewed the records of nearly 800,000 patients between the years of 1999 to 2010 that were a part of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database. They assigned over 393,000 patients in a periodontal disease group and the same number in a control group. They then adjusted for a variety of factors, including sex, age, annual number of hospital visits and frequency of dental care.

Researchers discovered that patients in the periodontal disease group were 31 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter when compared to the control group. The authors also noted that those patients who had at least one scheduled dental appointment a year enjoyed a lower risk of atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter when compared to patients who did not schedule any dental care.

Additional Risk Factors

The results of this study continue to add compelling data to the existence of a link between gum disease and systemic health problems caused by inflammation.

The researchers noted that inflammation caused by periodontal disease shared similar markers as the inflammation caused by atrial fibrillation. This latest finding only helps to underscore the need for the oral health community to continue investigating the link that inflammation – whether originating in gum tissue or systemically – has on an individual’s overall health and wellness.

Researchers also noted that the patients in the study who had the highest risk of atrial fibrillation were those with diabetes, heart conditions and hypertension – all chronic health conditions that have been previously linked to gum disease in research.

As more data continues to emerge, it’s becoming increasingly clear that successfully lowering your risk of gum disease and further systemic health problems requires scheduling regular visits to see your Sonora, CA dentist. It also helps to make a dedicated commitment to brushing and flossing daily. By practicing these simple steps, you can make an enormous difference in the protection of your long-term health.

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