Researchers from Australia (Sydney Dental Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital) and Norway (University of Oslo) collaborated in the PERICAR clinical trial, providing strong evidence linking periodontal (gum) disease to an increased risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to the onset of heart attack and stroke.
In recent years, many studies throughout the world have linked periodontal disease to increased cardiovascular risk, although the reasons for this link have not been fully explained, nor has it been proven that the link is a direct causal one. One explanation is that inflammation and infection have also been related to increased atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk. Periodontal disease is the most common chronic infection in humans, and symptoms include bleeding, swollen or receding gums, and bad breath. In severe cases, the teeth become loose and may eventually fall out.
Individual participants who were involved in the trial had blood tests before and after treatment of gum disease that was so severe that all their teeth had to be extracted. The blood tests were for blood-clot risk factors and signs of inflammation.
The average level of factors fell when the gum infection was eradicated, suggesting that the risk of heart attacks and clots in the future had reduced. This also indicates that inflammation in the mouth has a measurable effect in the bloodstream, and therefore the rest of the body.
Although these results are exciting they do not yet provide proof of a direct link and more research is needed. With grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Ramaciotti Foundation, the researchers are currently studying the relationship between gum and heart disease in people with less severe periodontal disease who do not need to have all their teeth extracted.
Dental disease impacts on people's general health and well-being. Periodontal disease is common, preventable, and treatable. This study suggests that improving periodontal health could significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Journal of Dental Research is the flagship publication of the International and American Associations for Dental Research (www.dentalresearch.org) and is the top dental journal in the world.
This is a summary of a paper entitled "Full-mouth Tooth Extraction Lowers Systemic Inflammatory and Thrombotic Markers of Cardiovascular Risk", by B.A. Taylor, G.H. Tofler, et al., appearing in the J Dent Res 85(1):74-78, 2006.