CALGARY, Alberta — A simple mouth rinse could discover a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease, a new study explains. Periodontitis, a form of gum disease, is associated with heart ailments. Now, researchers say elevated white blood cell levels in saliva combating periodontitis might serve as an early warning for cardiovascular problems.
Scientists at Mount Royal University in Canada found that a high count of these cells from the rinse also suggests difficulty in artery dilation during increased blood flow, another potential heart disease indicator.
“Even in young healthy adults, low levels of oral inflammatory load may have an impact on cardiovascular health — one of the leading causes of death in North America. Optimal oral hygiene is always recommended in addition to regular visits to the dentist, especially in light of this evidence,” says corresponding author Dr. Trevor King in a media release. “We are also hoping to include more individuals with gingivitis and more advanced periodontitis to more deeply understand the impact of different levels of gingival inflammation on cardiovascular measures.”
In their study, the team examined 28 non-smoking participants between 18 and 30 year-old, with no cardiovascular risks or gum disease history. Participants had to fast for six hours, although drinking water was allowed. In a lab setting, they rinsed with water and then gargled saline for testing. They then underwent an electrocardiogram and had their blood pressure, flow-mediated dilation, and pulse-wave velocity checked.
Flow-mediated dilation gauges the adaptability of arteries during increased blood flow, while pulse-wave velocity assesses artery stiffness. Rigid and poorly adaptive arteries elevate cardiovascular disease risk.
“The mouth rinse test could be used at your annual checkup at the family doctor or the dentist. It is easy to implement as an oral inflammation measuring tool in any clinic,” notes co-author Dr. Michael Glogauer from the University of Toronto.
The study found no direct correlation between white blood cell count from the rinse and pulse velocity, indicating that any long-term arterial health impact might not be immediately evident with heightened white blood cell levels. The researchers theorize that mouth inflammation might affect arterial health by reducing nitric oxide production, a compound essential for blood flow response.
“Recognizing early on that oral health might influence cardiovascular disease risk even in healthy young people suggests that a more integrated approach to health could be beneficial,” emphasizes Ker-Yung Hon, the study’s primary author, now studying dentistry at the University of Western Ontario.
The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Oral Health.
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- Having gum disease increases risk for future heart problems
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- Gum disease increases the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease
South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.