Healthy gums may be the key to a healthy heart. A new study has revealed that the treatment of gum disease may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from Australia (Sydney Dental Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital) and Norway (University of Oslo) collaborated in the PERICAR clinical trial, providing strong evidence linking periodontal (gum) disease to an increased risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to the onset of heart attack and stroke.
In recent years, many studies throughout the world have linked periodontal disease to increased cardiovascular risk, although the reasons for this link have not been fully explained, nor has it been proven that the link is a direct causal one. One explanation is that inflammation and infection have also been related to increased atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk. Periodontal disease is the most common chronic infection in humans, and symptoms include bleeding, swollen or receding gums, and bad breath. In severe cases, the teeth become loose and may eventually fall out.
Individual participants who were involved in the trial had blood tests before and after treatment of gum disease that was so severe that all their teeth had to be extracted. The blood tests were for blood-clot risk factors and signs of inflammation.
Although these results are exciting they do not yet provide proof of a direct link and more research is needed. With grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Ramaciotti Foundation, the researchers are currently studying the relationship between gum and heart disease in people with less severe periodontal disease who do not need to have all their teeth extracted.