A new study from the researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health finds that there is indeed a link between bacteria in the mouth and heart disease. A three-year study discovered that as gum health improves, the advancement of atherosclerosis is slowed significantly.
The build-up of plaque in arteries is a key risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and death. The study followed 420 adults who were examined for periodontal infection. Plaque samples were taken from the participants and analyzed for 11 strains of bacteria that have been linked to periodontal disease. During the three-year follow-up program, researchers saw that when an individual’s periodontal health improved, the Atherosclerosis in carotid arteries decreased.
The lead author of the paper and associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, Moïse Desvarieux, MD, PhD, commented, saying, “These results are important because atherosclerosis progressed in parallel with both clinical periodontal disease and the bacterial profiles in the gums. This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases.”
A sampling of the fluid surrounding the gums was also taken and assessed for Interleukin-1β, a marker of inflammation. High-resolution ultrasound was used to check the Atherosclerosis in both carotid arteries. The results were adjusted for factors like diabetes, cholesterol, body mass index and smoking.
The researchers determined that there was a definite correlation between improving an individual’s oral and dental health and the build-up of plaque in carotid arteries.
According to Tatjana Rundek, MD, PhD, a co-author of the study and professor at the University of Miami, “When it comes to atherosclerosis, a tenth of a millimeter in the thickness of the carotid artery is a big deal. Based on prior research, it appears to meet the threshold of clinical significance.”
Researchers said that they planned to continue to monitor the individuals in the study group to see if there were other important changes in health for those with better oral health.
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