Periodontitis and coronary artery disease: a questioned association between periodontal and vascular plaques

Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;1(1):76-83. Epub 2011 May 18.


Periodontitis is a bacterially-induced, localized chronic inflammatory disease destroying both the connective tissue and the supporting bone of the teeth. In the general population, severe forms of the disease demonstrate a prevalence of almost 5%, whereas initial epidemiological evidence suggests an association between periodontitis and coronary artery disease (CAD). Both the infectious nature of periodontitis and the yet etiologically unconfirmed infectious hypothesis of CAD, question their potential association. Ephemeral bacteremia, systemic inflammation and immune-pathological reactions constitute a triad of mechanisms supporting a cross-talk between periodontal and vascular damage. To which extent each of these periodontitis-mediated components contribute to vascular damage still remains uncertain. More than twenty years from the initial epidemiological association, the positive weight of evidence remains still alive but rather debated, because of both the presence of many uncontrolled confounding factors and the different assessment of periodontal disease. From the clinical point of view, advising periodontal prevention or treatment targeting on the prevention of CAD it is unjustified. By contrast, oral hygiene including periodontal health might contribute to the overall well-being and healthy lifestyle and hence as might at least partially contribute to cardiovascular prevention.

Keywords: Periodontitis; atherosclerosis; bacteremia; coronary artery disease; periodontal disease; prevention.