Public Release:  A healthy smile may promote a healthy heart

Research continues to suggest the importance of periodontal health as related to cardiovascular health

American Academy of Periodontology

CHICAGO (January 08, 2008) - Each year, cardiovascular disease kills more Americans than cancer. And while most people are aware that lifestyle choices such as eating right, getting enough exercise and quitting smoking can help prevent cardiovascular disease, they may not know that by just brushing and flossing their teeth each day, they might also be avoiding this potentially lethal condition.

An article published in the December issue of the Journal of Periodontology (JOP), the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), suggests that periodontal patients whose bodies show evidence of a reaction to the bacteria associated with periodontitis may have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

"Although there have been many studies associating gum disease with heart disease, what we have not known is exactly why this happens and under what circumstances," said JOP editor Kenneth Kornman, DDS, PhD. "The findings of this new analysis of previously published studies suggest that the long-term effect of chronic periodontitis, such as extended bacterial exposure, may be what ultimately leads to cardiovascular disease."

Researchers at Howard University identified 11 studies that had previously examined clinically-diagnosed periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. The team then analyzed the participants' level of systemic bacterial exposure, specifically looking for the presence of the bacteria associated with periodontal disease, as well as measuring various biological indicators of bacterial exposure. They found that individuals with periodontal disease whose biomarkers showed increased bacterial exposure were more likely to develop coronary heart disease or atherogenesis (plaque formation in the arteries).

"While more research is needed to better understand the connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, this study suggests the importance of taking of your teeth and gums and how that can help you take care of your heart," said Susan Karabin, DDS, President of the AAP. "With the number of people with heart disease continuing to increase, it is important to understand that simple activities like brushing and flossing twice a day, and regular visits to your dental professional can help lower your risk of other health conditions."

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To find a periodontist or to find out if you are at risk for periodontal diseases take the Academy's risk assessment test. A referral to a periodontist, additional information, and brochure samples are available online at www.perio.org, or by calling toll-free (800) FLOSS-EM (800/356-7736).

About the American Academy of Periodontology

The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the JOP article "Markers of systemic bacterial exposure in periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease risk" is available to the media by contacting the AAP Public Affairs Department at 312/573-3242. The public and/or non-AAP members can view a study abstract online, and the full-text of the study may be accessed online for $20.00 at http://www.joponline.org/.

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