Discovering your risk of heart disease is just a rinse away.
A new study published in Frontiers in Oral Health suggests that a simple mouthwash could determine a person’s chances of developing heart disease.
“We are starting to see more relationships between oral health and risk of cardiovascular disease,” Ker-Yung Hong, first author of the study, now studying dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, said in a media release. “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.”
Since gum inflammation leads to a gum disease called periodontitis, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, scientists believe they can identify early warning signs of heart disease with just a saliva sample.
Periodontitis is a common but preventable gum infection that damages the soft tissue around the teeth, according to Mayo Clinic.
Scientists at Mount Royal University in Canada tested a simple oral rinse to see if signals for cardiovascular disease can be linked to levels of white blood cells — an indicator of gum inflammation — in healthy adults.
“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,” Dr. Trevor King of Mount Royal University, corresponding author of the study, said.
Researchers analyzed 28 non-smokers between the ages of 18 and 30 with no comorbidities — when more than one condition is in a person at the same time — or medications that could affect cardiovascular health, as well as no recorded history of periodontal disease.
Participants were instructed to fast for six hours, besides drinking water, before coming into the lab. Upon arriving at the lab, they rinsed their mouth with water before rinsing with saline, which was collected for examination.
They then laid down for 10 minutes for an electrocardiogram (ECG), a test used to evaluate the heart, then remained lying down for an additional 10 minutes so their blood pressure, flow-mediated dilation (a measure of how well arteries can dilate to allow for higher blood flow) and pulse-wave velocity (measures the stiffness of arteries) could be recorded.
The team found that high levels of white blood cells were associated with compromised flow-mediated dilation, an early sign of poor arterial health — suggesting a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Higher levels of white blood cells could have a greater effect on vascular (endothelial) dysfunction, a type of coronary artery disease that narrows arteries, according to Cleveland Clinic. Levels found in the study were not considered “clinically significant.”
Scientists believe that the gun inflammation, which leaks into the vascular system, impacts the arteries’ ability to produce nitric oxide which allows for a response in changes to blood flow.
However, the authors noted that there was no link between white blood cells and pulse-wave velocity, which shows that the long-term effects of artery health had not yet shown up.
Use of the mouth rinse would be easy to carry out in regular dental care visits.
“The mouth rinse test could be used at your annual checkup at the family doctors or the dentist,” Dr. Michael Glogauer of the University of Toronto, a co-author of the study, said. “It is easy to implement as an oral inflammation measuring tool in any clinic.”
“Optimal oral hygiene is always recommended in addition to regular visits to the dentist, especially in light of this evidence,” King added.
“But this study was a pilot study. We are hoping to increase the study population and explore those results. 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.”