The real cause of most heart disease (and the surprisingly easy way to stop it)

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

October 5, 2020



You probably already know that atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is the most important factor behind every single form of cardiovascular disease. What most people don’t realize is that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory problem. That means that it happens when the arteries become inflamed.

But what causes this inflammation?

It is true that cholesterol, specifically oxidized LDL cholesterol is always involved. But it isn’t always the only factor.

As it turns out, there is another important factor that causes most heart disease.

The main cause of most heart disease has nothing to do with the heart. It has to do with your mouth.

The fact is that infected gums, also known as periodontitis, can cause heart disease. We’ve known that gum disease could cause heart attacks for some time. But scientists have just discovered how infected gums can cause atherosclerosis. It’s through inflammation.

And we’ve also discovered that there’s a better way to measure inflammation than the traditional CRP test. But first, let’s look at what these scientists found out about gum disease.

The Evidence That Gum Disease Can Kill

As you may know, several population studies have already shown a statistical relationship between periodontal disease and heart attacks. The problem was that we didn’t know if periodontal disease actually caused atherosclerosis or was just a bystander. And if it did cause atherosclerosis, we didn’t know how. So researchers performed an experiment with mice to find the answers.

To do the experiment, they caused periodontal disease in a group of mice and then watched what happened. The first thing they discovered was that the infected gums immediately started activating special immune cells called monocytes and macrophages. And then it got really interesting.

The researchers followed these activated immune cells to see where they went. And guess where they went? You guessed right. They went straight to the inner lining of the arteries called the endothelial lining. Remember the endothelial lining because it’s important and we’ll be talking a lot about it.

When these activated immune cells attacked the endothelial lining, all kinds of interesting things started to happen. The cells induced NF-Kappa Beta activation and VCAM-1 expression in the arteries, which then increased TNF-α signaling in the little mice aortas. This is how the inflammation starts.

Then they took some of the activated immune cells from the mice and put them into a culture dish with endothelial cells. Remember that it is these endothelial cells that line the arteries. All the arteries!

What did they do? They immediately adhered to the endothelial cells and started causing the same kind of inflammation that the researchers had seen in the first experiment. And when it was all over, the researchers said: “Our results suggest that periodontitis triggers the initial pathogenesis [it’s the cause] of atherosclerosis and inflammation of the vasculature [circulatory system], through activating monocytes and macrophages.”

You probably know that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the world. About 17.3 million people die from cardiovascular disease every year. It accounts for a full 30% of all causes of death around the world. That includes all infectious diseases, diabetes, cancer, wars, everything. And atherosclerosis is the number one cause of all cardiovascular disease.

In all likelihood, it is what’s going to kill you. And while it’s true that oxidized LDL cholesterol is a necessary part of the atherosclerotic process, the action of oxidized LDL is dramatically increased in the presence of these activated immune cells. So the connection between cardiovascular disease and gum disease is now scientifically established. And it gets worse.

The Link Between Dental Plaque and Heart Disease

As you may know, dental plaque is the cause of periodontal disease. The plaque provides a place for various bacteria to grow. The resulting infections are what create the activated immune cells that we have been talking about. And what tends to cause all these infections?

It turns out that the risk factors for getting gum infections are identical to the risk factors for getting cardiovascular disease — age, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. And if that isn’t enough proof for you, consider this experiment published in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years back.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut took 120 men and women with severe periodontitis. They gave half of them the usual level of periodontal care. They gave the other half what they referred to as “intensive” periodontal treatment.

Then they measured various aspects of how the endothelial lining of the arteries functioned both before and after the treatments. The measurements included measuring the diameter of the brachial artery during blood flow, blood markers of inflammation, markers of coagulation activation (blood clotting), and endothelial atherosclerosis formation. What they discovered is sobering.

Everything was better in the patients who had the more aggressive treatment. And the better the periodontal disease became, the better the markers were. After six months of therapy, the endothelial function in the more aggressively treated patients was significantly less.

In my clinic, besides oxidized LDL cholesterol, I have also been routinely measuring something in the blood called myeloperoxidase, or MPO for short. MPO is nasty stuff. It diminishes the effect of nitric oxide production. And that causes the same kind of endothelial breakdown that happens from periodontal disease.

Additionally, it also oxidizes LDL cholesterol. And it is a good predictor of who will get cardiovascular disease and who won’t. And here’s the thing. MPO is a specific marker for the level of inflammation in the arteries — much more so than the more commonly used CRP (C-reactive protein). And if my patient shows an elevation of MPO, you can bet that better than half the time they have been told by their dentist that they have some periodontal issues.

What should you do if you have periodontal disease or are on the road to getting it? Here are some good measures that work for almost everybody.

Here’s What You Should Do

First, be sure to see a dental hygienist and have your teeth cleaned at least every six months.

Second, do what they say! Either floss or use a water pick and a toothbrush after every meal. And when you brush, don’t use regular toothpaste. Instead, dunk your toothbrush into 3% hydrogen peroxide and then tap it into some baking soda. You can add a drop of peppermint oil to make it taste OK.  And brush with that.

Third, take CoQ10, 300 mg per day. CoQ10 is not only healthy for your arteries, it also is an effective remedy for gum disease.

And lastly, apply ozonated olive oil mixed with a little peppermint oil to your gums every night before bed and the first thing in the morning. If you do these things, I can promise you that your gums will be disease-free in a matter of weeks.

If you have an ozone generator, you can inject 20 cc of ozone into your mouth and swish it around after you brush. That’s a really good way to treat periodontitis. You can learn more about that and other home ozone treatments you can use in my book The Ozone Miracle.

You can get ozonated olive oil from Longevity Resources by calling 877-543-3398. It tastes pretty bad, but the results are incredible.

And one last thing. If you have periodontal disease, ask your doctor to order an MPO blood test for you. You can use that level to both assess your risk for cardiovascular disease and to judge how effective your treatment for it is.


Miyajima, S., K. Naruse, Y. Kobayashi, et al. “Periodontitis-activated monocytes/macrophages cause aortic inflammation.” Sci Rep., 2014; 4: 5171.

Tonetti, M.S., F. D’Aiuto, L. Nibali, et al. “Treatment of periodontitis and endothelial function.” N Engl J Med., 2007 March 1;356(9):911-20.

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