Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) explain one reason why periodontal disease could be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology.
Periodontal disease may cause oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make proteins such as CRP that inflame arteries and clot blood, which can lead to heart attacks. CRP levels identify those patients whose inflammations systems respond most actively to stimuli.
"Until intervention studies are completed, we will not know with certainty whether periodontal disease really can cause heart disease. In the meantime, this study provides one more explanation for why it is very plausible that an infection in the mouth could lead to problems with the heart," said Ernesto De Nardin, PhD, one of the study's researchers.
The study carried out at the University at Buffalo, compared CRP levels in 59 people with moderate and 50 people with advanced periodontal disease to 65 periodontally healthy patients. Adjustments were made for other factors that are known to be associated with elevated levels of CRP such as age, body mass index, smoking and blood lipids. Researchers found that 25 percent of the 174 total subjects had CRP concentrations that have been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular problems. However, among the 50 people with advanced periodontal disease, the percentage increased to 38. Furthermore, they found that those patients infected with bacteria that cause periodontal disease had the highest levels of C-reactive protein.
"As researchers continue to sort out the link between periodontal disease and heart disease, my advice to my patients remains the same," said Michael McGuire, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Do not take your gum health for granted or you may have more to lose than just your teeth."
A referral to a periodontist and free brochures including one titled Ask Your Periodontist About Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease are available by calling 800-FLOSS-EM or visiting the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.