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Your Oral Health

Heart Disease

A number of studies have shown that people with periodontitis are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than individuals without periodontal infection. One such study suggests that the risk of fatal heart disease doubles for persons with severe periodontal disease.

Part of the link between these two diseases may be discovered through novel investigations of the opportunistic, infectious bacteria that colonize the mouth. Scientists theorize that certain types of these bacteria, which form biofilms and cause periodontal disease, also activate white blood cells in the body to release pro-inflammatory mediators that may contribute to heart disease and stroke.

To explore the underlying inflammatory responses common to both diseases, NIDCR grantees are examining periodontal disease measures (pocket depth where gingival tissues have pulled away from tooth surfaces and where there is loss of tissue) and biological responses in 14,000 people enrolled in an extensive study of heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Scientists will also analyze gingival crevicular fluid constituents that may contain pro-inflammatory mediators associated with heart disease, as well as blood samples to identify antibodies to periodontal pathogens.

The research team will compare these measures with clinical indicators of heart disease, ultrasound measures of carotid vessel thickening, and the occurrence of heart attacks, stroke, and death to determine if there is a correlation. Should the link between oral disease and heart disease be firmly established, future studies will focus on identifying the specific biological factors involved and transferring this knowledge to prevent disease.

Oral Health & Wellness Content provided by NIH