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News / December 17, 2008

Good dental care cuts risk of heart disease

by Guy Hiscott

New research reveals that a protein associated with inflammation (called CRP) that’s elevated in people at risk for heart disease may be found in infected gums.

The study, by UK and Italian scientists, is published online in The FASEB Journal and shows that proper dental hygiene should reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and heart disease independently of other measures, such as managing cholesterol.

‘It has been long suspected that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process, and that periodontal disease plays a role in atherosclerosis,’ said Mario Clerici, a senior researcher on the study.

‘Our study suggests that this is the case, and indicates that something as simple as taking good care of your teeth and gums can greatly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases.’

To reach this conclusion, the scientists examined the carotid arteries of 35 otherwise healthy people (median age 46) with mild to moderate periodontal disease before and after having their periodontal disease treated.

One year after treatment, the scientists observed a reduction in oral bacteria, immune inflammation and the thickening of the blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis.

‘Because many Americans have some form of gum disease, this research can’t be brushed aside,’ said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal.

‘As it turns out, the health of our blood vessels could be hanging by the proverbial thread: dental floss.’

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