A Hidden Culprit Behind A-Fib: Gum Disease

A Hidden Culprit Behind A-Fib: Gum Disease
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Key Takeaways

  • Gum disease can influence a person’s irregular heart rhythm, a new study says

  • People who underwent treatment for atrial fibrillation were 61% less likely to have the heart problem return if they had their gum disease treated as well

  • Patients whose A-Fib returned were more likely to have more severe gum disease

THURSDAY, April 11, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Oral health might have an impact on heart health, a new study has found.

Folks treated for an irregular heart rhythm were more likely to keep a healthy heartbeat if they took steps to manage their gum disease, researchers report.

The study involved atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) patients who received catheter ablation, a procedure in which heat is used to destroy a small area of heart tissue that’s causing the irregular heartbeat.

Patients with severe gum inflammation who had their gum disease treated following catheter ablation were 61% less likely to have their A-Fib return, compared to those who went without the additional dental care.

“Proper management of gum disease appears to improve the prognosis of A-Fib, and many people around the world could benefit from it,” said lead researcher Dr. Shunsuke Miyauchi, an assistant professor at the Health Service Center at Hiroshima University in Japan.

A-Fib increases the risk of stroke five-fold, as the irregular heartbeat causes blood to pool and clot inside the heart, researchers said in background notes. More than 12 million Americans are expected to have A-Fib by 2030.

For the study, researchers compared 97 patients who got both catheter ablation and gum treatment against 191 ablation patients who didn’t receive any care for gum disease.

A-Fib recurred among 24% of all participants during the follow-up period, which lasted between 8 months and 2 years, researchers said.

But patients who had their gums treated were significantly less likely to have their A-Fib return, researchers found.

Further, patients whose A-Fib did recur had more severe gum disease than those whose heart rhythm stayed normal following ablation.

The findings were published April 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers were “surprised how useful” an analysis of a heart patient’s gum disease could be in treating their cardiac problems, Miyauchi said.

The American Heart Association (AHA) does not recognize oral health as a risk factor for heart disease, but it does acknowledge that oral health can be an indicator of overall well-being.

Bacteria from inflamed gums can travel through the bloodstream to the heart and the brain, and chronic gum inflammation may be associated with chronic health problems like clogged arteries, stroke and type 2 diabetes, the AHA said.

Researchers are now looking into why gum disease might influence A-Fib, Miyauchi said in an AHA news release.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on catheter ablation.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 10, 2024

What This Means For You

A-Fib patients undergoing catheter ablation should consider having their oral health treated following the procedure, to guard against the heart condition from reoccurring.

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