Oral Infections and Heart Disease

New research suggests that while oral infections may play a role in heart disease, it's not a clear-cut role.

A new study conducted by researchers at Boston University's Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine disproves the notion that all antibodies work the same way. Research has previously suggested that oral infections might trigger the immune system, causing inflammation in other parts of the body and contributing to heart disease.

But Boston University's Dr. Sok-Ja Janket says that two salivary antibodies are associated with heart disease in different ways.

"Our results indirectly suggest that oral infection may play a role in the initiation of heart disease, but we have to look at the right antibody," Dr. Janket said. "Not all antibodies represent the same pathway."

Dr. Janket determined that the antibody sIgA is positively associated with heart disease risk and as oral infection worsened, the antibody indicated a greater chance of heart disease. The second antibody, IgG, suggested protection from heart disease.

IgG is the most powerful active immunoprotein in saliva and works to inhibit the organisms that cause gingivitis, according to the American Dental Association. The ADA recommends regular trips to the dentist because some diseases or medical conditions can show symptoms in the mouth.

Dr. Janket still hopes to determine whether there is a casual relationship between each antibody and the likelihood of developing heart disease. Her study was not designed to determine cause but Dr. Janket hopes her future research sponsored by the American Heart Association will find the answer.

The study appeared in the April 1 issue of Journal of Dental Research.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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