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Scientists find link between inflamed gums and heart disease

New article in the FASEB Journal shows that proper dental care can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

The next person who reminds you to floss might be your cardiologist instead of your dentist. Scientists have known for some time that a protein associated with inflammation (called CRP) is elevated in people who are at risk for heart disease. But where's the inflammation coming from? A new research study by Italian and U.K. scientists published online in The FASEB Journal shows that infected gums may be one place. Indeed, proper dental hygiene should reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and heart disease independently of other measures, such as managing cholesterol.

"It has been long suspected that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process, and that periodontal disease plays a role in atherosclerosis," said Mario Clerici, M.D., a senior researcher on the study. "Our study suggests that this is the case, and indicates that something as simple as taking good care of your teeth and gums can greatly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases."

To reach this conclusion, the scientists examined the carotid arteries of 35 otherwise healthy people (median age 46) with mild to moderate periodontal disease before and after having their periodontal disease treated. One year after treatment, the scientists observed a reduction in oral bacteria, immune inflammation and the thickening of the blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis.

"Because many Americans have some form of gum disease, this research can't be brushed aside," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "As it turns out, the health of our blood vessels could be hanging by the proverbial thread: dental floss."

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The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is the most cited journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 21 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB advances biological science through collaborative advocacy for research policies that promote scientific progress and education and lead to improvements in human health.

Article Details: Stefania Piconi, Daria Trabattoni, Cristina Luraghi, Edoardo Perilli, Manuela Borelli, Michela Pacei, Giuliano Rizzardini, Antonella Lattuada, Dorothy H. Bray, Mariella Catalano, Antonella Sparaco, and Mario Clerici. Treatment of periodontal disease results in improvements in endothelial dysfunction and reduction of the carotid intima-media thickness FASEB J. first published on December 12, 2008 as doi:10.1096/fj.08-119578. http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/fj.08-119578v1

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