Small Bacteria - Big Impact

CHICAGO--April 10, 2007--Two new studies in the Journal of Periodontology explore the possible link between periodontal bacteria and coronary artery disease as well as periodontal bacteria and preeclampsia. These studies found that periodontal bacteria, which is often invisible to the naked eye, may account for big effects on general health conditions.

Periodontal bacteria have often been thought to play a role in many of the possible connections between oral health and overall health. Two of the studies in this month's issue of the JOP further the understanding of these potential connections. One study looked at patients who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and examined the bacteria found in their arteries. They were able to identify periodontal pathogens in the coronary and internal mammary arteries in 9 out of 15 of the patients examined.

A second study looked at women who had suffered from preeclampsia during their pregnancy, a condition characterized by an abrupt rise in blood pressure that affects about 5% of pregnancies. The study found that 50% of the placentas from women with preeclampsia were positive for one or more periodontal pathogens. This was compared to just 14.3% in the control group. Both of these studies support the concept that periodontal organisms might be associated with the development of other systemic conditions such as coronary artery disease and preeclampsia.

These studies are just a few in the growing body of evidence on the mouth-body connection. More research is needed to fully understand how periodontal bacteria travels from the mouth to other parts of the body as well as the exact role it has in the development of these systemic diseases," said Dr. Preston D. Miller, DDS, and AAP president. "In the meantime it is important for physicians, dental professionals and patients alike to monitor the research in this area as it continues to grow so they can better work together to achieve the highest levels of overall health.

To find out if you are at risk for periodontal diseases please visit the AAP's Web site and take a free risk assessment test. A referral to a periodontist in your area and free brochure samples including ones titled Periodontal Diseases: What You Need to Know and Ask Your Periodontist about Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease are available by calling 800-FLOSS-EM or visiting the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.

The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

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