Mouth rinse may predict heart disease risk

Mouth rinse may predict heart disease risk

Predicting Heart Disease with a Simple Mouth Rinse

mouth rinseResearchers say a mouth rinse may be effective in determining heart disease risk. Thomas Winz/Getty Images

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers of Oral Health suggests that a simple mouth rinse that checks white blood cell levels could potentially predict the risk of heart disease. This novel approach explores the connection between gum inflammation, which can lead to periodontitis, and cardiovascular disease. By understanding the relationship between oral health and heart health, we can take proactive steps towards better overall well-being.

Gum inflammation, commonly caused by periodontal disease, has long been linked to heart disease. In this study, researchers aimed to determine whether lower levels of oral inflammation could be clinically relevant to cardiovascular health, even in individuals without diagnosed periodontal problems.

The pilot study involved 28 non-smokers between the ages of 18 and 30 who had no pre-existing medical conditions or medications that could affect cardiovascular risk. The researchers administered a simple oral rinse to measure the level of white blood cells in the participants’ saliva, with the goal of establishing a potential connection to heart disease.

The process began with participants fasting for 6 hours before visiting the lab. They then rinsed their mouth with water, followed by a saline solution. The researchers collected the saline for analysis. Afterward, the participants lay down for 10 minutes and underwent an electrocardiogram. The researchers also measured blood pressure, flow-mediated dilation, and pulse-wave velocity.

The results of the study indicated a significant relationship between high levels of white blood cells in saliva and poor flow-mediated dilation, suggesting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there was no direct correlation between white blood cells and pulse-wave velocity, indicating that long-term impacts on the arteries had not yet occurred. It is important to consider that the participants in this study were relatively young and healthy, which may have influenced the results.

Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, suggests expanding the participant pool to include individuals of varying ages and health statuses for more conclusive findings. A larger sample size would provide additional data to further explore the correlation between the saliva test and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers hypothesize that inflammation in the mouth may leak into the vascular system, affecting the arteries’ ability to produce nitric oxide and respond to changes in blood flow. This potential vascular dysfunction is associated with higher levels of white blood cells. The researchers’ innovative screening method could be a significant development in identifying individuals at risk for heart disease.

Peggy Budhu, DDS, a dentist at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone in New York, compares this screening approach to the early days of HIV rapid testing when dental clinics offered HIV screenings. Budhu acknowledges the promising preliminary results and calls for a larger sample size, including patients with treated periodontal disease and actively affected individuals. Once more data and studies are collected, she believes this screening test could be offered as a proactive measure against heart disease.

Periodontal disease, often known as gum disease, is a chronic oral infection triggered by microbial colonization in the gingival unit. It is strongly associated with systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and preterm low-weight births. Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar contributes to the progression of the disease, which necessitates professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Some early warning signs of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include bad breath or taste that won’t go away, red or swollen gums, tender or bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, gums that have pulled away from teeth, changes in the way your teeth fit together when biting, and changes in the fit of partial dentures.

To reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease, the National Institutes of Health recommend brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, regularly flossing to remove plaque between teeth, having regular dental check-ups at least once a year (more frequently if warning signs are present), and quitting smoking. By maintaining good oral hygiene, individuals can improve their cardiovascular and overall health.

In some cases, deep cleaning or surgery may be necessary to restore dental health. However, given the progressive nature of periodontal disease, regular visits to the dentist or periodontist are crucial for ongoing maintenance and prevention.

This groundbreaking study sheds light on the potential for a simple mouth rinse to predict the risk of heart disease. By understanding the relationship between oral health and cardiovascular health, individuals can prioritize proper oral hygiene and take proactive steps to improve their overall well-being. Regular dental check-ups, along with lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, can contribute to healthier gums and a healthier heart.