Scientists in the US believe that a toothpaste that shows up plaque might help to reduce heart attacks and strokes.
For years there has been a suggested link between oral health and inflammatory diseases affecting the body. There is also significant evidence to link severe periodontitis with heart attacks and strokes, perhaps because of oral bacteria directly or associated inflammation in the body.
‘The connection is an association which together with experimental animal data fairly strongly suggests that there is a link between gum and tooth disease, systemic inflammation, and the development of atherosclerosis,’ comments Joseph Alpert, cardiologist at the University of Arizona, who was not involved in the study. ‘As yet, however, we have not proven that improving oral health will lead to fewer cardiovascular deaths. It seems quite reasonable but not 100% proven yet.’
Inflammation is known to be directly involved in cardiovascular diseases and this can be accurately measured by looking at levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which is a marker for future risks of heart attacks and strokes.
The toothpaste is the first to identify plaque so that it can be removed with directed brushing. It also contains a cleaning agent to weaken plaque structure to help a person visualise and more effectively remove plaque.
In the trial, 112 subjects were randomised to use either the plaque identifying toothpaste or an identical toothpaste that did not identify plaque (The American Journal of Medicine, doi: 10.1016/j. amjmed.2020.01.023). The results showed a statistically significant reduction in hs-CRP in those with elevations at baseline who used the plaque identifying toothpaste.
‘What we would now like to do is to propose to NIH [the US National Institutes of Health] an investigator-initiated grant to look at whether subjects with dental plaque and elevated hs-CRP, assigned at random to this toothpaste, have decreased atherosclerosis as measured by carotid ultrasound or computed tomography of the coronary arteries,’ says Charles H. Hennekens, First Sir Richard Doll Professor at Florida Atlantic University, who led the study.
‘The cardiologists community will be excited about its potential,’ says Hennekens, ‘but I see it as very promising but still unproven with respect to heart attack and stroke prevention.’
‘This work further supports circumstantial evidence of the relation between oral health and CV disease,’ notes Alpert. ‘However, in the absence of hard end-points such as reduction in the number of heart attacks and strokes by improving oral health, we cannot yet say definitely that this has been proven.’