Treat Gum Disease, Help Heart?
Intensive Treatment of Gum Disease May Yield Healthier Blood Vessels
Feb. 28, 2007 -- In people with gum disease, intensive treatment may benefit
blood vessels as well as their gums.
That's according to a study of 120 people with severe gum disease, also
called periodontitis. In periodontitis, gums recede and teeth can loosen as
their support weakens.
Other studies have shown a possible link between poor oral health and heart
disease risk, possibly due to bacteria or inflammation from the gum
So having healthy teeth and gums may be good for your heart.
This study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, comes
from the University of Connecticut's Maurizio Tonetti, DMD, PhD, along with
colleagues in London.
About the Study
Patients studied were on average 47 years old and overweight but not obese.
Most were white men.
Nearly a third were current smokers, and 30% were former smokers.
First, patients provided blood samples and took tests to see how much the
inner lining (endothelium) of their arm's brachial artery would widen
A healthy endothelium means better endothelial dilation, which means better
blood flow. Poor endothelial function may be an early warning sign of heart
disease, note the researchers.
Next, patients were randomly split into two groups.
One group got standard gum disease treatment -- having a dentist scrape and
polish their teeth.
The other group got more aggressive treatment, including a shot of
anesthesia to let dentists remove plaque below the gum line and extract teeth,
Lastly, the patients provided more blood samples and repeated the
endothelial function tests periodically for six months following treatment.
One day after gum disease treatment, patients in the intensive treatment
group had higher levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood and worse
endothelial function than those who received standard care.
But two months later, the intensive treatment group had better endothelial
function than the standard treatment group. That advantage was still seen at
the end of the six-month study.
Intensive treatment of gum disease may briefly boost inflammation and curb
endothelial function, but it appears to be better for the endothelium in the
long run, the researchers say.
"Six months after therapy, the benefits in oral health were associated
with improvement in endothelial function," they write.
It's not clear if the findings apply to people with less severe gum disease
or those with other heart health risk factors.