Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the world and atherosclerosis is the number one cause of every form of cardiovascular disease. If you need a reminder, atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls, which can restrict blood flow and cause hardening of the arteries. This is an inflammatory problem. It has been said that we used to die from infection, now we die from inflammation.
What does periodontal disease have to do with atherosclerosis? Population studies have shown a statistical relationship between periodontal disease and heart attacks. Researchers have discovered just how infected gums can actually cause atherosclerosis. Infected gums started the activation of special immune cells called monocytes and macrophages. Researchers were able to follow these cells straight to the endothelial lining, the inner lining of the arteries. This attack by the macrophages immediately triggered inflammation. The researchers stated: “Our results suggest that periodontitis triggers the initial pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and inflammation of the vasculature through activating monocytes and macrophages.” (Miyajima, S., K. Naruse, Y. Kobayashi, et al. “Periodontitis-activated monocytes/macrophages cause aortic inflammation.”Sci Rep., 2014; 4: 5171)