Saturday, September 19, 2009

Genes link gum disease to heart attacks

Researchers have discovered a genetic link between a certain type of dental disease and the increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Previous studies had revealed the high frequency of heart events, pancreatic cancer and the reactivation of latent HIV-1 among individuals suffering from periodontitis --a gum disease that results in loss of connective tissue and the bone supporting the teeth.

The main reason linking coronary heart disease (CHD) to the gum disease, however, remains unclear. According to a study presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, a genetic locus on chromosome 9 is responsible for the higher risk of CHD among patients with periodontitis. CHD and periodontitis are both characterized by an imbalanced immune reaction and chronic inflammation.

Both diseases, furthermore, have similar risk factors including smoking, diabetes and obesity. The bacteria found in the oral cavity are akin to those in coronary plaques, indicating that the bacteria involved in gum disease is a possible trigger for low grade inflammatory responses and changes in the arteries leading to cardiovascular events.

Scientists urged individuals with periodontitis to reduce their risk factors and take preventive measures at early stage to prevent possible heart events. They also recommended the dentists to take gum disease seriously and diagnose and treat it as early as possible with the aim of preventing further heart-related complications.