Patients with severe gum inflammation who had it treated after heart catheter ablation were 61% less likely to have a recurrence of AFib.

Summary: New research in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals treating gum disease soon after atrial fibrillation (AFib) ablation can reduce recurrence risks. The study involved 288 patients, showing those who treated their gum inflammation post-ablation were 61% less likely to experience AFib relapses. Researchers highlight the role of oral health in heart rhythm stability, noting severe gum disease was common in patients with AFib recurrences. This study, conducted at Hiroshima University, underscores the potential benefits of dental care in improving AFib prognosis and general health outcomes.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Treating gum disease within three months after a heart procedure to correct an irregular heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation (AFib), may lower the chances of it reoccurring.
  • Inflamed gums may predict AFib recurrence after heart ablation, a procedure to fix the irregular heartbeat.
  • AFib patients should be examined for gum disease and encouraged to seek dental treatment, researchers say.

Treating gum disease in the three months after a procedure to correct atrial fibrillation (AFib) may lower oral inflammation and may reduce AFib recurrence, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of American adults ages 30 or older have some form of periodontal or gum disease, with the incidence increasing with age.

Researchers say this study is among the first to investigate the potential impact of gum disease treatment on AFib. More than 12 million people in the U.S. are expected to have AFib by 2030, according to the American Heart Association’s 2024 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

“Gum disease can be modified by dental intervention. Proper management of gum disease appears to improve the prognosis of AFib, and many people around the world could benefit from it,” says lead study author Shunsuke Miyauchi, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at the Health Service Center at Hiroshima University in Japan who engages in general cardiology, arrhythmia practice, and research, in a release.

Clinical Findings and Patient Data

Researchers followed 97 patients who had undergone the non-surgical procedure to correct AFib (radiofrequency catheter ablation) and received treatment for gum inflammation along with 191 ablation patients who did not receive treatment for gum disease. This study found that an index measuring the severity of gum inflammation was associated with the return of AFib. 

After the ablation procedure, during the average follow-up period of between 8.5 months to two years, researchers found:

  • AFib recurred among 24% of all participants throughout the follow-up period.
  • Patients with severe gum inflammation who had it treated after heart catheter ablation were 61% less likely to have a recurrence of AFib, compared to ablation patients who did not have treatment for severe gum inflammation.
  • Patients who had recurrences of AFib had more severe gum disease than those who did not have recurrences.
  • Having gum disease, being female, experiencing irregular heartbeat for more than two years and left atrial volume were predictors for AFib recurrences. Left atrial volume often leads to AFib recurrence as it includes thickening and scarring of connective tissues, Miyauchi explained.

Surprising Uses of Gum Disease Indices

“While the main findings were consistent with their expectations, we were surprised how useful a quantitative index of gum disease, known as periodontal inflamed surface area or PISA, could be in cardiovascular clinical practice,” says Miyauchi in a release.  

While the American Heart Association does not recognize oral health as a risk factor for heart disease, it recognizes that oral health can be an indicator of overall health and well-being. 

Bacteria from inflamed teeth and gums may travel through the bloodstream to the rest of the body, including the heart and brain. Chronic gum inflammation may be associated with other systemic health conditions, including coronary artery disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Study Scope and Limitations

Study details and background:

  • A total of 288 adults (66% men; 34% women) being treated for AFib were enrolled in this study.
  • The single-center study was conducted from April 1, 2020, to July 31, 2022, at Hiroshima University Hospital in Hiroshima, Japan, and all participants were Asian.
  • Enrollees were examined by a dentist before undergoing catheter ablation for AFib.

“We are now working on further research to reveal the mechanism underlying the relationship between gum disease and AFib,” Miyauchi says in a release.

The study’s limitations include: a small number of patients enrolled from a single center; patients were not randomized to receive dental treatment; periodontal status was not followed up after the initial examination among the participants who did not receive gum disease treatment; and inflammatory markers were not reassessed after the ablation procedure.

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