Taking care of your teeth can also take care of your heart. That's the latest word from Columbia University researchers who found taking care of your gums by brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits can help keep heart disease at bay, according to a Medical Express report.
The study, by Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, is the first to show that as gum health improves, progression of atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries, a major contributor to heart disease — slows to a clinically significant degree.
"These results are important because atherosclerosis progressed in parallel with both clinical periodontal disease and the bacterial profiles in the gums," said Moïse Desvarieux, M.D., who led the research, published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases."
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For the study, researchers followed 420 Manhattan residents, who were examined for periodontal infection and signs of atherosclerosis in their carotid arteries using high-resolution ultrasound.
After three years, the researchers found that improvement in periodontal health
— health of the gums — and a reduction in the proportion of specific bacteria linked to periodontal disease correlated to improved vascular conditions.
"Our results show a clear relationship between what is happening in the mouth and thickening of the carotid artery, even before the onset of full-fledged periodontal disease," said co-researcher Panos N. Papapanou, a professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine. "This suggests that incipient periodontal disease should not be ignored."
Bacteria in the mouth may contribute to the onset of atherosclerosis by triggering an immune response and high levels of inflammatory markers, which may initiate or exacerbate the inflammatory aspect of atherosclerosis.