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Healthy Gums for Healthy Heart

Posted Nov 24 2013 10:07pm

Atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of arteries through the build-up of plaque, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and death. While data among anti-aging dental specialists suggests a causal connection between periodontal disease and heart disease, Moïse Desvarieux, from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health (New York, USA), and colleagues submit data resultant from a prospective study that finds that as gum health improves, the progression of atherosclerosis slows to a clinically significant degree.  The researchers followed 420 adults residing in Northern Manhattan, enrolled in the Oral Infections and Vascular Disease Epidemiology Study (INVEST). Participants were examined for periodontal infection. Overall, 5,008 plaque samples were taken from several teeth, beneath the gum, and analyzed for 11 bacterial strains linked to periodontal disease and seven control bacteria. Fluid around the gums was sampled to assess levels of Interleukin-1beta, a marker of inflammation. Atherosclerosis in both carotid arteries was measured using high-resolution ultrasound.   Over a median follow-up period of three years, the researchers found that improvement in periodontal healthhealth of the gumsand a reduction in the proportion of specific bacteria linked to periodontal disease correlated to a slower intima-medial thickness (IMT) progression, and worsening periodontal infections paralleled the progression of IMT.  There was a 0.1 mm difference in IMT change over three years among study participants whose periodontal health was deteriorating compared with those whose periodontal health was improving. Previous research has shown that a .033 mm/year increase in carotid IMT (equivalent to approximately 0.1 mm over three years) is associated with a 2.3-fold increased risk for coronary events. The study authors conclude that: “Longitudinal improvement in clinical and microbial periodontal status is related to a decreased rate of carotid artery [intima-medial thickness] progression at 3-year average follow-up.”

Desvarieux M, Demmer RT, Jacobs DR, Papapanou PN, Sacco RL, Rundek T.  “Changes in clinical and microbiological periodontal profiles relate to progression of carotid intima-media thickness: the oral infections and vascular disease epidemiology study.”  J Am Heart Assoc. 2013 Oct 28;2(6):e000254.

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