UCSF researchers explore oral health, kidney disease link

Preliminary studies by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have begun to establish a connection between periodontal disease and kidney disease, according to an article on the university's website.

The study of oral health and kidney disease is new and largely uncharted, according to Vanessa Grubbs, MD, a kidney expert and an assistant professor and pulmonary specialist in the UCSF's School of Medicine who is focusing on the link between chronic health issues and kidney disease. Establishing the link could change the disease's treatment approach as well as preventive care in dentistry.

Low-income populations suffer higher rates of both periodontal disease and kidney disease, she noted.

Dr. Grubbs is exploring the possibility that bacteria from periodontal disease puts the kidneys at risk in similar ways it affects the heart, according to the article. Longitudinal research may prove it.

Part of the approach involves tracking the progression of kidney disease in patients who are being treated for periodontal disease in a randomized, controlled study. While two-thirds of these patients with both illnesses will get immediate periodontal care in addition to follow-up treatment, the remaining patients will only get medically necessary dental care, the article noted. The researchers will track kidney function by examining unique biomarkers associated with kidney damage in blood and urine.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the pilot study will track the patients for one year.

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