Sign of Heart Trouble -- or Gum Disease?

High CRP? Call the Dentist

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 22, 2004 -- If your blood test says you're at high risk of heart disease, it might be wise to call your dentist.

CRP -- C-reactive protein -- is a marker for low-grade inflammation in the blood vessels, a mechanism in the development of hardening of the arteries. It's also an early warning of gum disease, a Japanese study shows.

Yuko Takami and colleagues at Aichi-Gakuin University School of Dentistry, Nagoya, Japan, analyzed data from 7,452 people who had both medical and dental checkups. They found that both men and women with high CRP levels tended to have serious gum disease.

"If the blood test detected certain 'red flags,' the person also had serious symptoms of periodontal disease," Takami said in a news release. The findings appear in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

If your doctor tells you your CRP levels are high, you might want to call your dentist before seeing a cardiologist.

A study in an earlier issue of the JOP showed that treating gum disease significantly lowered CRP levels.

"These findings mean that in the future, when patients visit their medical doctors for a routine checkup and annual blood work, they may also be referred to a periodontist for a periodontal screening if the blood indicates systemic abnormalities," Michael P. Rethman, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said in a news release.

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SOURCES: Jones, B. Journal of Periodontology, December 2003; vol 74: pp 1778-1784. News release, American Academy of Periodontology.
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