Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Link Between Oral Health and Cardiovascular Risk

Don't be surprised when your cardiologist starts to ask you questions about your oral health and how well you've taken care of your gums. That's because new research in this field has shown a link between the two fields.

Investigators from Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have published findings which suggest that persons with cardiovascular disease might be identified by asking those patients about their oral health history. It's an interesting approach for diagnosis, because this group might not be detected by traditional cardiovascular risk screening. Individuals reporting a history of periodontal disease were more likely to have increased levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease, compared to those who reported no history of periodontal disease, according to an American Journal of Cardiology report.

Inflammation is now suggested as a potential link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. To examine whether oral health history and inflammatory markers associated with cardiovascular disease were linked, the investigators followed participants in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Family Intervention Trial for Heart Health (F.I.T. Heart).

In this study, 421 individuals who were blood related to and/or living with a person recently hospitalized due to cardiovascular disease were screened for traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. They were also asked standardized questions about their oral health status, including whether they had ever been diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease, whether they had ever been treated for periodontal disease, whether they used partial or complete removable dentures, and the date of their last teeth cleaning. The oral health history was then correlated with standard markers of inflammation.

Results found that almost one in four were found to have a personal history of periodontal disease and higher levels of an inflammatory marker which has been found present in inflamed rupture prone plaque in heart arteries/valves.

It is important to note that it is not possible to determine from this study that poor oral health causes cardiovascular disease risk or that any therapy based on oral health status would be effective in preventing cardiovascular disease. However, the findings are novel because the research suggests the dentist and oral health exam may be the latest weapon in identifying persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.


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