July 14, 2009

Dentists, doctors work for heart health

Studies linking gum and heart diseases have spurred U.S. dentists and doctors to work together, cardiologists and dentists said.

Cardiologist Dr. Marvin J. Slepian of Tucson, Ariz., and Neil R. Gottehrer of Havertown, Pa.., a dentist, lead an all-day session together on ways dentists could work more closely with doctors to develop proactive management of periodontal disease treatment plans -- including non-surgical options at the annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry in Baltimore.

It is critical for all dentists and physicians to collaborate in helping patients reduce inflammation, which can become a target factor for cardiovascular disease, Slepian said in a statement.

Gum disease -- or periodontal disease -- is a basic inflammation and infection of the gums caused by bacterial plaque -- a sticky, colorless film, which forms on the teeth and can harden into a rough porous substance releasing bacterial toxins.

The subsequent breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth and the progress of toxins and bacteria down the tooth may cause the bone keeping the tooth in place to break down. This, in turn, may cause the tooth to fall out, the researchers said.