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Gum Disease Linked to Clots

Gum Disease Linked to Clots


It's Thursday, 6:00 a.m., and I'm getting ready to leave. At this hour I'd usually be headed to work, but today I'm headed to Medical City, Dallas. You see, my dad is having open-heart surgery today. We as a family have been here before. Feelings of fear and anxiety again play across my mind. This is Dad's third heart surgery. He had his first at 47, and now he's 62. But the fear is the same as it was 15 years ago.

One week later, Dad has been home for two days and is doing much better than he was a week after his surgery 15 years ago. Back then he spent his first week in ICU. This time he's already home. My, how technology has changed and improved our way of life. But how much better it would be if dad didn't have to have this surgery at all! Yes, the medical world is working on that. Even in my field of practice great strides are being made to prevent heart disease.

In March of 1999, the Journal of the American Dental Association published an article entitled "Oral Health and Coronary Heart Disease." This article created quite a stir in the medical world. It found that gum disease might be a more significant contributing factor to this condition than many of the other standard factors such as weight, diabetes, and even cholesterol levels. It seems that the most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque can cause blood clots that induce heart attacks when they escape into the bloodstream. The incidence of heart attacks may be twice as high in patients with gum disease. Why? Because the gums bleed when brushed if the disease is not treated.

Heart attacks will strike about 1.5 million Americans this year, killing 550,000.

More research needs to be done on this subject to determine to what extent gum disease contributes to heart disease. More recent studies have contradicted the findings of the abovementioned study. However, overall the results point to a simple message: maintaining good oral health can reduce your risk of heart attack. Taking care of your gums just makes good sense! Let me make a friendly suggestion: make regular dental visits for gum care your new year's resolution. By maintaining better oral health you will be protecting your heart.

I have a feeling that I will be seeing much more of my dad this next year-as my patient!

Todd McCracken, DDS, is an active member of the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the Texas Dental Association, and the First District Dental Society. He is also Master of the Academy of Laser Dentistry, and an active dental surgeon at East Texas Medical Center in Clarksville, Texas.

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