Despite popular belief, gum disease hasn't been proven to cause atherosclerotic heart disease or stroke, and treating gum disease hasn't been proven to prevent heart disease or stroke, according to a new scientific statement published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal. Keeping teeth and gums healthy is important for your overall health. However, an American Heart Association expert committee - made up of cardiologists, dentists and infectious diseases specialists - found no conclusive scientific evidence that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, causes or increases the rates of cardiovascular diseases. Current data don't indicate whether regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease can cut the incidence of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Periodontitis, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth, affects more than half of adults and is linked to an increased risk of stroke and other heart problems. To evaluate whether fish oil supplementation could be an adjunct therapy for periodontitis, Dr. Alison Coates from the University of South Australia and colleagues from the School of Dentistry at University of Adelaide in Australia reviewed evidence from eight unique studies that involved humans. Their review of these studies showed that improvements in clinical measures were common in all studies, but were scientifically significant in two that used a combination of fish oil and aspirin. Although this is not conclusive evidence, intake of fish oil is recommended for health benefits beyond the teeth. "I would recommend that people ensure they have a sufficient intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in their diet for general health, " said Coates.
New research from Queen Mary, University of London in collaboration with research groups in the USA sheds light on why gum disease can become more common with old age. The study, published in Nature Immunology, reveals that the deterioration in gum health which often occurs with increasing age is associated with a drop in the level of a chemical called Del-1. The researchers say that understanding more about Del-1 and its effects on the body's immune system could help in the treatment or prevention of serious gum disease. Periodontitis is a disease of the gums which causes bleeding and bone loss which can, over time, lead to loss of teeth. It affects about 20 per cent of the UK population and is caused by an over-active immune response to bacteria that grow in the mouth. As people age they are more likely to suffer from inflammatory diseases, including gum disease.
A protein involved in cellular inflammation may increase the risk of plaque containing blood vessels associated with inflammatory gum disease, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 2012 Scientific Sessions in Chicago. The protein, CD36, is found in blood cells, as well as many other cell types. Research has shown that CD36 may increase the harmful effects of "bad cholesterol, " or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Investigators "knocked out, " or deleted, the gene responsible for CD36 production, then induced plaque in blood vessels by feeding mice a high fat diet. Some animals were also infected with the bacteria associated with gum disease. More fatty plaque accumulation occurred in the blood vessels of the animals that were infected with gum disease.
In a report published in the April edition of the Royal College of Surgeon's Dental Journal, health experts warn that excessive alcohol consumption causes mouth cancer and dental disease. According to the experts, in order to tackle this as fast as possible, screening and treatment for alcohol abuse is critical. The paper is entitled "Alcohol misuse: screening and treatment in primary dental care." According to the paper, individuals do not visit their GP unless they are ill, whereas the majority of people visit their dentist for a routine check-up, as a result dentists have the chance to identify alcohol abuse. Given that questioning patients with regard to their alcohol consumption is a routine component of understanding their overall health, making standard questions about alcohol consumption more explicit under the new policy proposals could provide a new opportunity to help people in their fight against drinking problems, which has so far been left untouched.