A Trip to the Dentist Might Reduce Heart Disease Risk
A small study shows that a trip to the dentist for tartar removal and teeth cleaning can reduce our risk of heart disease. Treatment of mild to moderate gum disease was found to reverse thickness and calm inflammation in the endothelium (lining) of the carotid artery in 35 individuals studied.
According to Dr. Maurizio Tonetti, a periodondist and executive director, European Research Group on Periodontology (ERGOPerio) says, "The data are consistent with current hypotheses that periodontitis is a cause of systemic inflammation and contributes to early atherosclerosis". He cautions that larger studies are needed before a definite link between periodontal disease and atherosclerosis can be established.
Senior study author Dr Mario Clerici (University of Milan, Italy, says the research team is in the process of confirming their results. He says he and his colleagues were surprised to learn that something as simple as taking care of your gums could reverse lesions in the blood vessels that could lead to heart disease. "It involved removal of tartar and cleaning the gums, and that's it--no surgery and no antibiotics--just your basic dental hygiene."
In order to qualify the study results, the researchers performed echocardiography of the carotid arteries of 35 healthy individuals. Thickness of the carotid artery was evaluated before and after dental treatment. Included were blood tests to measure inflammation, biomarkers that are known to promote heart disease (CRP levels, lymphocytes, and monocytes).
Before dental treatment, inflammatory biomarkers were abnormally high in the study participants, but after treatment, the researchers found a significant improvement. Bacteria in the mouth might turn out to be a contributing factor to inflammation and heart disease, specifically the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis. Once the bacterial effect was eliminated n the body, the researchers measured a significant decrease in the thickness of the carotid artery as early as six months following dental treatment. Dr. Clerici explains the novelty of the findings…"there has never been any demonstration of changes that can be picked up by echo Doppler."
Dr. Clerici says, "By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can not only prevent the development of atherosclerosis, you can also reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease." A trip to the dentist sounds like a great idea for cutting our risk of heart disease.