Periodontitis, a gum disease, can cause various dental problems such as bad breath, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. Additionally, research suggests it may also be linked to more serious health issues, such as those related to the heart.
The team found a significant correlation between periodontitis and fibrosis scarring to an appendage of the heart’s left atrium that can lead to an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation in a sample of 76 patients with cardiac disease.
“Periodontitis is associated with a long-standing inflammation, and inflammation plays a key role in atrial fibrosis progression and atrial fibrillation pathogenesis. The researcher hypothesized that periodontitis exacerbates atrial fibrosis. This histological study of left atrial appendages aimed to clarify the relationship between clinical periodontitis status and the degree of atrial fibrosis.
The left atrial appendages were surgically removed from the patients, and the researchers analyzed the tissue to establish the correlation between the severity of the atrial fibrosis and the severity of the gum disease. They found that the worse the periodontitis, the worse the fibrosis, suggesting that the inflammation of gums may intensify inflammation and disease in the heart.
The study provides basic evidence that periodontitis can aggravate atrial fibrosis and can be a novel modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation. According to the researcher, for improving other risk factors such as weight, activity levels, and tobacco and alcohol use, periodontal care could aid in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management. However, she cautioned that this study did not establish a causal relationship, meaning that while gum disease and atrial fibrosis degrees of severity appear connected, researchers have not found that one definitively leads to the other.
While research suggests a connection between periodontitis and atrial fibrosis, further evidence is needed to establish a causal relationship and to determine if periodontal care can reduce fibrosis. The goal of the study is to confirm that periodontitis is a modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation and to encourage dental specialists to play a role in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management. Periodontitis is an easily modifiable risk factor with lower cost compared to other known atrial fibrillation risk factors, thus the results of this study could have a significant impact on the health of people worldwide.
Next, the researchers said they hope to conduct future clinical trials to clarify if periodontal intervention reduces atrial fibrillation occurrence and improves patient outcomes. (NJ/Newswise)