A link between gum disease and heart disease has been proven in a large number of studies. For example, a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine showed that patients with chronic gum disease were twice as likely to develop heart disease as those without gum disease. Another study suggested that periodontal bacteria can travel from the gums through the bloodstream to infect the walls of arteries and cause cardiovascular disease. Still another found that a protein released by gum disease might increase blood pressure.
It’s not clear whether gum disease directly leads to heart disease. But the disease appears to increase the risk for cardiovascular events, like a heart attack, stroke, or death. The risk for heart disease increases by 2% to 4% each year after people develop periodontitis, according to a study published in 2011. The study’s authors suspect that the link may be related to high blood pressure that occurs during periods of inflammation.