A new study from the University of Sydney shows that the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health may be stronger than previously thought. In the past, we knew that gum disease increased your risk of poor cardiovascular health, but a new study confirms that treating gum disease can actually lead to significant improvements in many aspects of cardiovascular health.
The goal of the study was to look at whether nonsurgical gum therapy could lead to the improvement of systemic symptoms of cardiovascular diseases, such as the thickness of arterial walls. Arterial wall thickness matters because it’s a warning sign of atherosclerosis, hardening of the artery with plaque buildup, which contributes to cardiovascular disease.
The study looked at 273 indigenous Australians over the age of 18 who were given nonsurgical gum therapy. Arterial thickness was measured before treatment and both three and 12 months after treatment. The gum treatment resulted in
The study was looking at the effectiveness of the simple, nonsurgical gum therapy on the thickness of arterial walls in the carotid artery. Arterial thickness is a warning sign of atherosclerosis, which is, in turn, the most common cause of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers found that a single treatment led to significant decreases in arterial thickness. The study looked at 273 indigenous Australians over the age of 18. Half were given a single gum treatment. Arterial thickness was measured before and after treatment at 3 and 12 months. It was found that those who had gum treatment experienced a significant decrease in the thickness of the arterial walls.
It’s hard for non-cardiologists to appreciate the effectiveness of this treatment. According to co-author Dr. Michael Skilton, “The effect is comparable to a 30 percent fall in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol — commonly referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol — which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. It’s also equivalent to the effects of reversing four years of aging, 8 kg/m2 lower body mass index, or 25 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure.” By comparison, statin drugs can lower LDL cholesterol by 20-55%, which means that gum disease has some effects that are as good as the leading cardiovascular treatments out there. It’s also ten times more effective than minor lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake, which may lower blood pressure by 2.7 mm Hg.
Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t uniformly improve markers of cardiovascular risk. It reduced arterial thickness but didn’t affect arterial stiffness, which is another warning sign of atherosclerosis.
This study is further proof that getting your gums treated can result in significant reductions of overall cardiovascular risks (in addition to reduced medical costs).