Treating Gum Disease in Australians Leads to Better Vascular Health

According to a new study in the journal of Hypertension, a single session of gum treatment in Aboriginal Australians can lead to a significant decline in the thickening of the wall of the carotid artery a year later. The thickness of the wall of the arteries is a risk factor for heart disease. Aboriginal Australians are generally thought to have poorer oral health and higher rates of cardiovascular disease when compared to other Australian groups.

The researchers say that the effect is comparable to a 30% fall in low density lipoprotein cholesterol which is known as bad cholesterol and associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. The researchers also note that such an effect is equivalent to reversing four years of aging or 25 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure.

Periodontal or gum disease is an inflammatory disease which affects the soft and hard structures supporting the teeth and leading them to become swollen and red. In more advanced forms of periodontal disease the gum tissue can be destroyed and the gums pull away from the teeth. Even more troubling is that bone can be lost and teeth may fall out.

Cardiovascular disease also known as atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. It commonly causes no symptoms until older age. Researchers in other studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and atherosclerotic vascular disease and wanted to implement a randomized trial to investigate a possible periodontal procedure on future atherosclerotic disease.

In future studies the researchers hope to look at more regular periodontal therapy and explore its possible effect on arterial stiffness.

Nonetheless the researchers feel confident that this study shows that periodontal therapy has a systemic impact beyond just the gums, in this case also cardiovascular disease.

Source: K. Kapellas and et. al. Effect of Periodontal Therapy on Arterial Structure and Function Among Aboriginal Australians: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Hypertension, 2014.

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