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What's risky for the heart is bad for the teeth and gums

What stresses heart health also impacts the teeth and gums, report researchers in the article, "Periodontitis and cardiovascular diseases: A review of shared risk factors and new findings support a causality hypothesis", in the January issue of Quintessence International. With common risk factors shared by the two diseases, the researchers urge the development of a common prevention program that relates to tackling both diseases.

The researchers examined risk factors in three predominant areas: social demographics like race and low income and education levels; health conditions such as diabetes or a genetic predisposition to heart disease; and negative health behaviors like smoking, stress, poor diet, excessive weight gain and low exercise levels.

These factors, linked to poor heart health, also have been linked to poor oral health of the gum and the bone that support the teeth, said the researchers.

"Available evidence makes it possible to hypothesize a casual relationship," conclude the researchers. "Involving oral health professionals in the effort to promote healthy behaviors, in addition to their role in treating periodontal infection and inflammation is warranted."

Reporting on the similarities in the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and periodontitis are Mohammad S. Al-Zahrani, assistant professor and head of the division of periodontics at King Abdulaziz University in Saudia Arabia; Rayyan A. Kayal, a graduate student in the department of periodontology at the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University; and Nabil Bissada, professor and chair of the department of periodontology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.

In a related guest editorial in Quintessence International, "The Oral Cavity and Overall Health," Bissada elaborated on the role dentists can have in promoting overall health.

"Because periodontal and systematic health are inextricable intertwined, dental education must provide proper role models so that dental students can see first-hand how a skilled clinician can incorporate a medical approach into the treatment of patients," he writes.

He notes that being able to screen patients for risk factors and assign a risk level of those factors will be "key" for dentists in managing the disease and for the primary care of the patient.

"More extensive knowledge of periodontal and general medicine will be needed in order to more accurately assess risk, make appropriate decisions, render therapy and monitor outcome," he writes.


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Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.