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Is gum disease a predictor of heart disease? Researchers say ‘yes’

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Cambridge, MA — People with gum disease may be at increased risk for stroke, heart attack or other “major adverse cardiovascular events,” results of a recent study led by researchers from the Forsyth Institute and Harvard University School of Dental Medicine suggest.

The researchers evaluated scans from 304 participants, looking for artery and gum inflammation data. After follow-ups about four years later, the researchers identified 13 participants who had experienced major adverse cardiovascular events. The presence of periodontal inflammation was predictive of the events, even after controlling for risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

“This is very definitely related to people who have currently active inflammatory disease,” Thomas Van Dyke, lead study author and vice president of clinical and translational research at Forsyth, said in a press release.

According to the researchers, the presence of gum inflammation may trigger the mobilization of cells signaling through bone marrow, which might prompt arterial inflammation and later adverse cardiac events.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes multiple signs of gum disease, including:

  • Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
  • Pain while chewing
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Recurring bad breath or bad taste
  • Change in teeth alignment when biting
  • Change in fit of partial dentures

CDC recommends regular dental hygiene to control gum disease. This includes brushing and flossing teeth daily to remove bacteria, and having a dental checkup at least once a year.

The study was published online Jan. 29 in the Journal of Periodontology.

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