Dental School Receives $250,000 Gift to Support Research Linking Gum Disease, Heart Attacks

Release Date: December 8, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Treating gum disease as a path to a healthy heart is being explored in an ongoing University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine study, which has received a $250,000 gift in support of the study. The gift is from Atrix Laboratories of Ft. Collins, Col., and Block Drug Co., Inc. of Jersey City, N.J.

"We're grateful for this very generous gift from Atrix Laboratories and Block Drug Co.," said Robert Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., who is directing the research program assessing the role of oral infections in systemic disease. "The management of these companies are very forward-thinking in recognizing the implications of our research. Their gift will help support the continuation of our work as we examine the disease mechanisms and effects of treating periodontal disease in reducing the risk of heart attacks."

UB researchers led by Genco, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the UB Department of Oral Biology, were among the first to demonstrate the correlation between periodontitis and an increased incidence of heart attacks. A study by UB researchers among the Pima Indians showed that individuals with periodontitis were almost three times as likely to have heart attacks as those with no gum disease.

Now that an association between gum disease and heart attacks has been demonstrated, Genco and his team will attempt to identify the mechanisms by which gum disease increases the risk of heart attacks, as well as examine whether treatment of gum disease can reduce the risk of having a heart attack.

Because gum disease affects as many as one-third of all people over the age of 50 and is often undiagnosed in its early stages, its prevalence may make it a significant contributor to the risk for heart disease in the population as a whole. And if that is the case, better diagnosis and treatment of gum disease may help reduce the risk of heart attacks.

"If you treat periodontal disease, will you decrease the risk of heart disease?" asked Genco. "Answering that question is a key goal of our research."

Atrix and Block manufacture and market products that can play a significant role in the treatment of periodontal disease.

"We're very committed to the periodontal field," said Lee Southard, president of Atrix Laboratories, "and particularly to the emerging understanding of the relationship between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases. Bob Genco and the University at Buffalo are, in my view, doing the highest quality research. We're really pleased to be associated with this research, as we strive to have that same standard of excellence in our own operations."

Peter C. Mann, president of the U.S. Division of Block Drug Co., emphasized the company's commitment to supporting vital dental studies. "This grant is part of Block Drug Co.'s commitment to ongoing research in dental medicine and dental education," said Mann.

In addition to supporting the continuation of this research, the gift will strengthen the dental school's application to the National Institutes of Health to become a federally designated, comprehensive dental-health research center. As a comprehensive research center, the school would be able to expand its leading role in research, technology transfer and outreach for oral health.

For information about how you can help support the University at Buffalo, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/giving