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Simple Mouth Rinse Test Provides Early Cardiovascular Disease Warning Signs

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Aug 2023
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Image: A simple mouth rinse could spot early heart disease risk (Photo courtesy of Freepik)
Image: A simple mouth rinse could spot early heart disease risk (Photo courtesy of Freepik)

Periodontitis, a widespread oral health issue involving infected gums, has been linked to cardiovascular disease. In a new study, scientists explored the inflammation leading to periodontitis and examined whether the levels of white blood cells (a sign of gum inflammation) in the saliva of healthy adults could signal potential cardiovascular issues. Specifically, they looked at whether high levels of these cells correlated with compromised flow-mediated dilation, an early sign of arterial problems.

Scientists at Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB, Canada) set out to investigate the link among young adults without any known periodontal problems to see if even minor levels of oral inflammation might have clinical significance for heart health. They selected two measures, pulse-wave velocity (to gauge artery stiffness) and flow-mediated dilation (to assess how well arteries expand to allow increased blood flow), as key indicators of cardiovascular risk. Both of these measurements directly relate to arterial health, and issues with either can increase the risk of heart disease.

The study involved 28 non-smoking participants aged 18 to 30, with no underlying health conditions, medications that might affect cardiovascular risk, or history of periodontal disease. Before visiting the laboratory, they were instructed to fast for six hours, although water intake was allowed. Upon arrival, they rinsed their mouths with water, followed by saline, which was then collected for analysis. Participants subsequently underwent an electrocardiogram while lying down, and remained in that position for additional tests, including blood pressure, flow-mediated dilation, and pulse-wave velocity measurements.

The findings revealed that high levels of white blood cells in the saliva were significantly linked to poor flow-mediated dilation, indicating a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease in these individuals. Interestingly, there was no connection between white blood cells and pulse-wave velocity, suggesting that the long-term effects on artery health were not yet evident. Scientists have proposed that the inflammation from the mouth, possibly seeping into the vascular system, could affect the arteries' ability to produce nitric oxide, which aids in responding to changes in blood flow. Elevated levels of white blood cells might further exacerbate this vascular dysfunction, although the levels detected in the study participants are generally not seen as clinically significant, indicating that even minor inflammation could have broader health implications.

“We are starting to see more relationships between oral health and risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Ker-Yung Hong, first author of the study. “If we are seeing that oral health may have an impact on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease even in young healthy individuals, this holistic approach can be implemented earlier on.”

“The mouth rinse test could be used at your annual checkup at the family doctors or the dentist,” said Dr. Michael Glogauer, a co-author of the study. “It is easy to implement as an oral inflammation measuring tool in any clinic.”

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