Gum Therapy Reduces Inflammation, An A-Fib Hotbed

Posted on Apr 11, 2013 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

In 2010, the CDC reported Atrial Fibrillation affected 2.7 million in the US.  A-Fib places patients at a high risk for clots, strokes and heart failure. Could dental cleanings (which remove plaque through ‘scaling’) reduce your risk of atrial fibrillation?

According to findings in new research, a relationship between periodontal (gum) health and cardiac dysrhythmia does exist. A new study published in the International Journal of Cardiology shows that an annual dental scaling can lower the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, the most common type of cardiac dysrhythmia. The study suggests that the risk is reduced through dental scaling, which helps to decrease inflammation.

Other studies have linked poor oral hygiene and edentulousness (missing all teeth) to increased risk of cardiovascular problems, particularly death by stroke. Periodontal disease, which triggers inflammation in the body, has already been found to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardio-vascular disease. Thus, oral infections may contribute to A-Fib by adding to the body’s inflammatory burden.

In this study, researchers used data from nearly 29,000 individuals, age 60 or older, who had no history of cardiac dysrhythmias. Those who had received dental scaling at least once a year from 1998 to 2000 (12 years) were placed in one group. This group was matched to another group of similar age, sex, and underlying diseases, yet had not had any dental scaling in the same time span. Both groups were followed for 5 years. Researchers found that the group who had regular dental scaling had a lower risk of developing A-Fib.

Researchers will continue to explore the data. Recently, the American Heart Association issued a statement that periodontal disease was not proven as a CAUSE of atherosclerotic heart disease or stroke, and that treating gum disease is not a guarantee to prevent heart disease or stroke. Yet, researchers contend that while no causal link has been pinpointed, there is an unquestionable association of inflammation and heart disease. It is hoped that further research will reveal underlying triggers that link oral health and these deadly diseases.

Do your dental hygiene visits decrease the body’s inflammatory burdens and help to prevent A-Fib?  Further studies are necessary to confirm these findings. We’ll keep you updated as new developments are made.

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