Recently the team at Lori Lemire Family Dentistry learned of another study that finds a correlation between oral and vascular (blood vessel) health. Previous studies showed a connection between atherosclerosis and gum disease (periodontitis); this new research corroborates these findings.
Dental Down Under
In Australia, a study among Aboriginal Australians shows that non-surgical periodontal therapy reduces the progression of carotid artery thickening over a one year period. Aboriginal Australians are currently the victims of high rates of both oral health problems and cardiovascular disease.
While the stiffness of atherosclerotic vessels did not change with gum treatments, researchers noted a significant decline in the thickness of vascular walls even after a single session of gum treatment.
One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Michael Skilton, an expert in vascular disease at the University of Sydney, believes these results to be quite significant. Skilton states “The effect is comparable to a 30 per cent fall in LDL (“bad” cholesterol)…. It’s also equivalent to the effects of reversing four years of aging, 8kg/m2 lower body mass index, or 25mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure.”
Among the first, but not the last
The study was one of the first in using a randomized trial to examine the potential causative relationship between periodontal disease and vascular disease. One hypothesis at the moment is that both share inflammation as a symptom and cause, but the jury is still out on that one.
As patients of Dr. Lemire may know (but with regular dental visits to our clinic not experienced!), periodontal disease is caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth that elicit an inflammatory response by your body’s immune system. Initial symptoms include redness and swelling, but if untreated, periodontal disease (at this point called periodontitis) tissues actually begin to be destroyed: gum tissue, even bone tissue.
Of the study, Dr. Skilton states that “the findings indicate that periodontal therapy has a systemic impact beyond treating gum disease,” but adds that there is much more work to do before researchers will know for sure if intensive periodontal therapy will produce “marked improvements in vascular structure.”
Studies like these are invaluable for populations at risk for poor access to dentists or dental health facilities. The fact remains, however, that prevention is the best medicine for oral health. Lori Lemire Family Dentistry encourages all our patients to follow a strict oral health schedule– one very familiar to all of us– of brushing and flossing twice daily, coupled with regular check ups every 6 months. At Lori Lemire Family Dentistry, we are committed to partnering with our patients in maintaining exceptional oral health– through education, healthy habits, and regular check ups.
If you have any more questions about this study or other links between oral and vascular health, don’t hesitate to ask dentist in North Bend, OR Dr. Lemire next time you’re in the clinic! Happy brushing!