Repeated Treatment of Gum Disease Reduces Levels of Inflammatory Factors Known to Increase Heart Disease Risk

Study shows those with most systemic inflammation derive greatest benefit

By Lois Baker

Release Date: March 29, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Reinforcing the relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease, oral biologists from the University at Buffalo have shown that levels of two inflammatory proteins known to raise the risk of heart disease can be reduced substantially by regularly treating existing gum infections.

"You can have significant effects in other parts of the body by treating local problems," said Sara Grossi, D.D.S., senior research scientist in the Department of Oral Biology, UB School of Dental Medicine and senior author on the study. "That's why treating these infections is so important."

Results of the study were presented at the International Association for Dental Research meeting held March 10-13 in Hawaii by Owais A. Farooqi, a doctoral student working with Grossi in UB's Periodontal Disease Research Center.

The current study reports findings from 102 patients with periodontal disease who were randomized to two study groups and followed for one year. One group received standard "mechanical" treatment for periodontal disease, called scaling and root planning. The other group had the antibiotic gel Atridox™ applied to their gums before mechanical treatment.

Blood drawn at the start of the study showed that all patients had high levels of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein, which is known to put individuals at high risk for heart disease, and of fibrinogen, a protein involved in promoting blood clots. All patients were free of other conditions that could cause inflammatory proteins to show up in their blood stream

Both groups received their designated treatment at baseline, 3, 6 and 9 months. Blood samples were taken at baseline, and at 6 weeks, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. At the end of 12 months, results showed that systemic levels of markers of inflammation decreased with repeated treatment.

"People who have high levels of CRP in their blood are at high risk of heart disease," Grossi said. "Our results showed that in people who had elevated levels of CRP at baseline, removal of dental plaque bacteria by scaling or scaling combined with topical antibiotics produced a statistically significant

reduction, bringing CRP levels close to the low-risk level. Both treatments also significantly reduced levels of fibrinogen in patients with elevated fibrinogen levels.

Grossi's lab next will assess levels of cytokines -- additional markers of inflammation -- and how periodontal therapy affects them. "This work will provide additional information on the systemic effect or benefit of treating gum infection and provide valuable information on the relationship between gum disease and heart disease and diabetes.

Additional researchers on the study were Alex Ho, statistician, and Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished professor, from the UB Department of Oral Biology, and J. Steven Garrett from Atrix Laboratories Inc.

The research was supported by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health and Atrix.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.