Dental workup can reverse atherosclerotic lesions

Researchers in Milan, Italy, have shown for the first time that treating mild to moderate gum disease in otherwise healthy volunteers improves endothelial dysfunction and significantly reduces carotid intima-media thickness (IMT).

The study, by Dr. Stefania Piconi and colleagues at Hospital Luigi Sacco, appears online in the FASEB Journal (December 12, 2008), the publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The longitudinal study involved 35 otherwise healthy individuals (median age, 46 years) with mild to moderate periodontal disease who underwent treatment. The treatment involved basic dental hygiene, such as tartar removal and cleaning the gums.

Doppler echocardiography of the carotid artery was performed at baseline and various time points after periodontal treatment, as was evaluation of inflammatory markers involved in the atherogenic process and surrogate markers of cardiovascular risk and carotid IMT.

"Periodontal treatment resulted in a significant reduction of the total oral bacterial load that was associated with a significant amelioration of inflammation biomarkers and of adhesion and activation proteins," the researchers wrote.

"Intima-media thickness was significantly diminished after treatment," they noted. The reduction was detected in multiple sites along the carotid axis as early as six months after the patients received treatment and lasted throughout the study period.

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