Brushing your teeth could lower factor for heart disease and stroke
Atherosclerosis is hardening and narrowing of the arteries and is usually the cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Dr. Moïse Desvarieux, MD, PhD, DMM, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and colleagues examined whether brushing, flossing and regular dental visits can affect the rate of carotid atherosclerosis.
To examine whether gum health improves the progression of atherosclerosis, researchers followed 420 adults, median age 68.8 years at baseline, as part of the Oral Infections and Vascular Disease Epidemiology Study (INVEST), a randomly sampled prospective cohort of Northern Manhattan residents.
Over a 3‐year median follow‐up time, clinical probing depth (PD) measurements were made at 75 766 periodontal sites, and 5008 sub-gingival samples were collected from dentate participants (average of 7 samples/subject per visit over 2 visits) and quantitatively assessed for 11 known periodontal bacterial species by DNA‐DNA checkerboard hybridization. Common carotid artery intima‐medial thickness was measured using high‐resolution ultrasound.
Over median three year follow-up the team found, periodontal hygiene was inversely proportional to the rate of atherosclerosis. Participants that improved their periodontal hygiene showed a slower progression of intima-medial thickness (IMT) and among participants whose periodontal hygiene become worse IMT progressed.
Researchers adjusted for potential confounders such as body mass index, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and smoking status.
In their conclusion the team writes “Longitudinal improvement in clinical and microbial periodontal status is related to a decreased rate of carotid artery IMT progression at 3‐year average follow‐up.”
Dr. Panos N. Papapanou, DDS, PhD, professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine, and co-author of study, whose laboratory assessed the bacterial profiles in the gums, commented “Our results show a clear relationship between what is happening in the mouth and thickening of the carotid artery, even before the onset of full-fledged periodontal disease.” "This suggests that incipient periodontal disease should not be ignored."
This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases," said Dr. Desvarieux.
In closing he adds "It is critical that we continue to follow these patients to see if the relationship between periodontal infections and atherosclerosis carries over to clinical events like heart attack and stroke and test if modifying the periodontal flora will slow the progression of atherosclerosis."
This study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association.