Researchers at U propose link between

Mickie Barg

The relationship between periodontal and heart diseases is the subject of a proposed multinational study coordinated by University researchers.
Teams from the School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and the School of Dentistry are investigating the unusual relationship.
Poor care of teeth and gums produces bacterial plaque which builds up on teeth every day. If this plaque buildup is not removed it can result in periodontal or gum disease. In some research, a relationship between periodontal disease and coronary disease has been found.
“The area of study has been controversial and a large study is the best resolution,” said Mark Herzberg, a professor in the preventive sciences department.
Research to date has been inconclusive because of the differing results of previous studies. The exact link between the two diseases has not been established.
“It’s not entirely clear how strong the association is,” Herzberg said.
In previous European and U.S. studies, an increased risk of coronary disease and stroke occurs in more than 50 percent of people with periodontal disease. The studies confirmed that oral conditions preceded the occurrence of heart disease.
“There are many studies conducted over a number of years that show the risk as double for heart disease if there is gum disease present,” Herzberg said.
University pilot studies have already been completed. They examined the elasticity of arteries in people with and without diagnosed artery disease and gum disease.
“We were not able to find a difference,” said periodontal research professor Bruce Pihlstrom on the elasticity of arteries.
However, University animal studies have shown a bacterial component found in dental plaque, when released into the bloodstream, might act as an agent causing blood clots and reduced blood flow which could result in cardiovascular disease and stroke.
A person’s diet and smoking habits have been confirmed as adversely affecting cardiovascular health. Other unrelated conditions are also known contributors to coronary problems.
“It is well know that acute infections increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease,” said Moise Desarieux, a University epidemiology professor. “And when you look at the decline in trends of cardiovascular diseases in the industrialized world, we don’t really see a reduction in the risk factors. There has to be something else.”
The large-scale multinational study will cross cultural, racial and socioeconomic lines in Australia, Finland, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States and possibly Haiti.

Mickie Barg covers health and welcomes comments at [email protected]