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Gum disease may be a risk factor for heart disease

June 28, 2004|Kelly Young

People with severe gum disease may be more likely to have precursors to heart disease than those with milder forms of the disease, known as periodontitis.

The disease, in which bacteria infect the gums and bones supporting the teeth, can cause gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets. Scientists had thought that periodontitis was a risk factor for heart disease; now researchers have linked the severity of the condition to the likelihood of symptoms.

By measuring these pockets, researchers at Kyushu University in Japan found that people with an average pocket depth of two millimeters or more -- a severe case of periodontitis -- were 1.6 times more likely to have readings showing a larger left ventricle or electrical conductive problems, which are predictors for heart disease, than people with smaller pocket depths or no gum disease.

Michael Rethman, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said extra bacteria in the blood during periodontitis could affect the heart. Also, he said, the body's disease-fighting chemicals might be linked to artery hardening.

The findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Periodontology.


-- Kelly Young

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