Although not everyone with heart disease has gum disease, and not everyone with gum disease has heart disease, there does appear to be a correlation.
Of course, individuals who smoke or drink large quantities of alcohol are more likely to have both oral and cardiovascular issues, but there appears to be more to the relationship than shared risk factors alone.
Whether gum disease is an independent risk factor for heart disease is still being discussed, but there are some theories as to how the two might be related.
Primarily, inflammation is a response to irritants or pathogens; it is a protective mechanism. However, if it continues for an extended period, it can damage tissues and organs.
It is possible that inflammation in the gums sets off a cascade that, ultimately, sparks inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
Alternatively, the link between heart and gum diseases may be due to bacteria.
Bacteria in the gums can enter the blood supply and be propelled to distant destinations, including the heart, where they can cause inflammation and damage.
As evidence that this is possible, researchers have shown that P. gingivalis is the most commonly found bacterial species in the coronary artery.