The next person to remind you to take care of your teeth and gums might be your cardiologist and not the dentist, for a new study has shown that proper dental care can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease.
Scientists have known that a protein associated with inflammation(called CRP) is elevated in people who are at risk for heart disease, which might come from infected gums.
Proper dental hygiene can 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," Clerici added.
For the study, the scientists examined the carotid arteries of 35 otherwise healthy people (median age 46) with mild to moderate periodontal disease before and after having it treated.
An year after treatment, the scientists observed a reduction in oral bacteria, immune inflammation and the thickening of the blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis.
"As it turns out, the health of our blood vessels could be hanging by the proverbial thread: dental floss," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
The study appears in the FASEB Journal.