Treating Gum Disease May Reduce Risk of Irregular Heartbeat Recurrence

A new study shows that treating gum disease within three months of surgery to correct an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AFib) can reduce inflammation in the mouth and reduce the chance of AFib returning. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common problem in the United States, affecting about half of adults age 30 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of gum disease increases with age.

AFib is a disease in which the heart beats irregularly, increasing the risk of stroke fivefold. According to the American Heart Association, more than 12 million people in the United States are expected to have AFib by 2030.

Gum disease can be improved through dental intervention. Proper management of gum disease appears to improve the prognosis of AFib, and many people around the world could benefit from it,” said the study's lead author, Dr. Shunsuke Miyauchi, assistant professor at Hiroshima University Health Services Center . in Japan.

The study followed 97 patients who underwent non-surgical treatment with radiofrequency catheter ablation to correct AFib and receive treatment for gum inflammation. They compared it with 191 ablation patients who did not receive treatment for their gum disease. Catheter ablation uses radiofrequency energy to destroy a small area of ​​heart tissue, causing a fast and irregular heartbeat.

During an average follow-up period of 8.5 months to 2 years after ablation surgery, the researchers found that 24% of participants experienced recurrence of AFib. However, patients with severe gingival inflammation who were treated after ablation were 61% less likely to have AFib relapse compared with patients who did not receive treatment for severe gingival inflammation. Patients whose AFib relapsed also had more severe gum disease than those who did not.

The study identified several predictors of AFib recurrence, including having gum disease, being female, experiencing an irregular heartbeat for more than two years, and having a larger left atrium, factors that often contribute to AFib recurrence due to thickening and scarring of connective tissue.

Miyauchi noted that while the main findings were consistent with their expectations, they were surprised by how useful a quantitative index of gum disease, called periodontal inflamed surface area, or PISA, was in cardiovascular clinical practice.

Although the American Heart Association does not recognize oral health as a risk factor for heart disease, it does recognize that oral health can serve as an indicator of overall health and well-being. Bacteria in inflamed teeth and gums may spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, including the heart and brain. Chronic gum inflammation may also be associated with other systemic health conditions, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

The study had several limitations, including a small number of patients from a single center, non-randomized treatment, and lack of follow-up of periodontal status and markers of inflammation after ablation procedures.

Despite these limitations, the findings suggest that treating gum disease may have a positive impact on the success of AFib treatment and reduce the risk of recurrence. Further research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms between gum disease and AFib.

The information in this press release comes from the original research organization. Content can be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.

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