New research suggests there is a clear link between what goes on in your mouth and the health of your heart.
Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have shown for the first time that as gum health improves, the chances of developing Atherosclerosis significantly reduces1.
Atherosclerosis is a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances, such as cholesterol. It is usually the cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
There are certain things that increase your risk of atherosclerosis. These include smoking, being overweight or obese, having diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Researchers accounted for these potential issues, and still found a significant link.
Co-author of the study Dr. Moïse Desvarieux, MD, PhD, DMM, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, commented: "This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases."
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes the research is a key step to discovering the true extent of the potential link between gum health and heart health.
Dr Carter said: "This research is truly ground-breaking. The potential link between what goes on in your mouth and the health of your heart has been an intense topic of debate for some time. This research clearly shows the more you improve and maintain your gum health, the less chance there is of developing a potential life-threatening illness.
"If further research supports this theory, it places even greater importance on maintaining your oral health. The good news is there is a very simple way to prevent and treat gum disease.
"You need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing for two minutes twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night with fluoride toothpaste, as well as using interdental brushes or floss to clean in between teeth where gum disease starts.
"Regular visits to the dentist for a thorough check-up will help your dentist identify any problems that are developing. If your gums do start to bleed this is a sign that you may have not been cleaning well enough so increase your toothbrushing. If things do not settle within a few days get along to the dentist before problems begin to mount up."
Research presented in the Journal of the American Heart Association sampled 420 adults. Over an average of three years 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.