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Scientists reactions mixed on periodontal-cardiovascular disease link

New research associating intensive treatment of severe periodontal disease with a positive effect on blood flow and elasticity of arteries is drawing a mixed reaction among scientists about the link between chronic gum infection and cardiovascular problems.

The findings are published in the March 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers conducted the study with 120 patients at the Eastman Dental Hospital in London who had severe periodontitis — a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth.

Six months after intensive treatment for the gum condition, researchers noted what they called a "significant" improvement in blood vessel function due to expansion of blood vessels. The arteries of patients receiving intensive treatment were 2 percent wider six months after therapy began than those receiving ordinary treatment.

& The degree of improvement was associated with improvement in measures of periodontal disease,& the study says.

The Washington Post reports different scientists have a different approach to the findings.

& This study adds a lot to a growing database that there is some sort of link& between periodontal disease and cardiovascular risk, reports Dr. Preston D. Miller Jr., president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Dr. Moise Desvarieux, associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, agrees. & This study adds significantly to the body of evidence linking periodontitis to vascular disease through a strong design and rigorous analysis."

However, Dr. Daniel Meyer, associate executive director of the American Dental Association's Division of Science, thinks it's too early to know how important a role periodontal disease may play in the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions. He says there's an important element missing in this and other studies of the effect of periodontal disease on cardiovascular problems.

& What it does not demonstrate is the relative importance of different risk factors. Implications of such things as diet, exercise and general health are not being factored into it,& Dr. Meyer explains. & What it is looking at is one aspect of a very complex disease. There are too many individual factors involved to say that it contributes a certain percentage of risk."

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

3/5/2007

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