ORLANDO, FLA. -- Persons with gum disease are at high risk of developing heart disease in the future, particularly if they also are diabetic, researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine have found.
Results of the study, conducted among Native Americans from the Gila River Indian community in Mesa, Ariz., 40 percent of whom have diabetes, showed that periodontal disease was a stronger risk factor in this population than other conditions traditionally associated with heart disease risk, including hypertension, high cholesterol, age and gender.
Robert J. Genco, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the UB Department of Oral Biology, reported the results here today (Sunday, March 23) at the annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research.
"We have always suspected that periodontal disease was a true risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but our studies have been confounded by the presence of smoking," Genco said.
"Smoking is rare in this community of Pima Indians, so it was not a factor," he added. "We found a powerful association between the existence of periodontal disease at the study baseline and the development of cardiovascular disease in the succeeding 10 years." Diabetes was the only factor that showed a stronger association.
"There are many reasons to treat periodontal disease," Genco said. "This is a very good one."
New dental research being conducted at UB and other institutions is showing a strong relationship between conditions in the oral cavity and many systemic diseases. In this case, bacteria present in periodontal disease is thought to be the culprit, Genco said.
"Oral bacteria enter the bloodstream via small ulcers in the gum tissue. These bacteria causes platelets to aggregate and form clumps, or thrombi. These clumps accumulate on damaged tissue, such as lesions in the blood vessel or a heart-valve replacement, which