New medical finding: Treatment for gum disease could also help the heart

March 02, 2007

Scientists at University College London (UCL) have conducted the first clinical trial to demonstrate that an intensive treatment for periodontitis (gum disease) directly improves the health of blood vessels. This study, conducted in conjunction with Professor Maurizio Tonetti (University of Connecticut, USA), and reported in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, may have relevance for the prevention of heart attacks and stroke.

Periodontitis is a common inflammatory disease of the gums, affecting up to 40 per cent of the world's adult population. It is a bacterial infection of the tissue that supports the teeth in the mouth. If untreated, it can cause progressive bone loss around the teeth, and eventual tooth loss.

There is already established scientific evidence linking inflammation, the body's natural response to infection or injury, with the arterial changes that underlie stroke and heart attack. However, this is the first clinical trial to demonstrate that relief of inflammation in the mouth, through intensive treatment of periodontitis, results in improved function of the arteries.

Dr Francesco D'Aiuto, project leader and therapist, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, explained the method behind the research: "Middle-aged subjects with severe periodontitis, but no evidence of cardiovascular disease, were randomly allocated to dental treatments of two levels of intensity. After six months, those who received the more intensive periodontitis treatment, which resulted in a marked improvement in their gum disease, also demonstrated a significant restoration of blood vessel function.

"The intensive treatment involved removal of plaque through scaling and root planning techniques, as well as extraction of teeth that could not be saved. This initially resulted in some inflammation and dysfunction of the blood vessels and arteries. However, that was short-lived and six months later the treatment led to an improvement in both oral health and arterial function."

Professor John Deanfield, senior author, UCL Institute of Child Health, added: "Previous studies have shown an association between periodontitis and blood vessel dysfunction, heart attack and stroke. However, a clinical trial was required to test whether these links could be causal. This is the first time that a direct link has been made between treatment for gum disease and improved circulatory function, which is relevant to some of the UK's biggest killers: heart attack and stroke."

Dr Aroon Hingorani, UCL Division of Medicine, a co-author on the study, set the findings in context: "Elevations in blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as smoking and diabetes, are recognised as the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and these can be effectively treated. Nevertheless, heart attacks and stroke remain a major cause of disability and death. Intriguing links have emerged between inflammation and heart disease and so it is important to better understand the nature of this connection, and whether it could lead to the development of new treatments. The current study points to disease of the gums as a potential source of this inflammation."

Professor Deanfield concluded: "This finding therefore has potential implications for public health, but further studies are now required to determine whether the treatment of severe periodontitis could directly contribute to the prevention of disease of the arteries (atherosclerosis), stroke and heart attacks."

The mechanism by which periodontitis affects endothelial function in the body is still uncertain. The gum disease involves a bacterial infection that invades the tissue around the teeth. One possibility is that the bacteria disturb endothelial function directly, since some bacteria can enter the bloodstream. Alternatively, the periodontitis might trigger a low grade inflammatory response throughout the body that has a detrimental effect on the vascular wall.
-end-
Notes for Editors About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government's most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is the fourth-ranked UK University in the 2006 league table of the top 500 world Universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Mahatma Gandhi (Laws 1889, Indian political and spiritual leader); Jonathan Dimbleby (Philosophy 1969, writer and television presenter); Alexander Graham Bell (Phonetics 1860s, inventor of the telephone), and members of the band Coldplay.

University College London

Related Heart Attack Articles from Brightsurf:

Top Science Tip Sheet on heart failure, heart muscle cells, heart attack and atrial fibrillation results
Newly discovered pathway may have potential for treating heart failure - New research model helps predict heart muscle cells' impact on heart function after injury - New mass spectrometry approach generates libraries of glycans in human heart tissue - Understanding heart damage after heart attack and treatment may provide clues for prevention - Understanding atrial fibrillation's effects on heart cells may help find treatments - New research may lead to therapy for heart failure caused by ICI cancer medication

Molecular imaging identifies link between heart and kidney inflammation after heart attack
Whole body positron emission tomography (PET) has, for the first time, illustrated the existence of inter-organ communication between the heart and kidneys via the immune system following acute myocardial infarction.

Muscle protein abundant in the heart plays key role in blood clotting during heart attack
A prevalent heart protein known as cardiac myosin, which is released into the body when a person suffers a heart attack, can cause blood to thicken or clot--worsening damage to heart tissue, a new study shows.

New target identified for repairing the heart after heart attack
An immune cell is shown for the first time to be involved in creating the scar that repairs the heart after damage.

Heart cells respond to heart attack and increase the chance of survival
The heart of humans and mice does not completely recover after a heart attack.

A simple method to improve heart-attack repair using stem cell-derived heart muscle cells
The heart cannot regenerate muscle after a heart attack, and this can lead to lethal heart failure.

Mount Sinai discovers placental stem cells that can regenerate heart after heart attack
Study identifies new stem cell type that can significantly improve cardiac function.

Fixing a broken heart: Exploring new ways to heal damage after a heart attack
The days immediately following a heart attack are critical for survivors' longevity and long-term healing of tissue.

Heart patch could limit muscle damage in heart attack aftermath
Guided by computer simulations, an international team of researchers has developed an adhesive patch that can provide support for damaged heart tissue, potentially reducing the stretching of heart muscle that's common after a heart attack.

How the heart sends an SOS signal to bone marrow cells after a heart attack
Exosomes are key to the SOS signal that the heart muscle sends out after a heart attack.

Read More: Heart Attack News and Heart Attack Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.