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Chiropractic Research Review

Diseased Gums Affect Overall Health

Periodontitis, or gum disease, affects 15-30% of adults, being more prevalent in older individuals. It has recently been shown to be a possible risk factor for atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

Infected pockets that develop in poorly maintained gums may release inflammatory bacteria, or endotoxins, into the bloodstream, leading to eventual cardiovascular disease.

To determine if gentle chewing in patients with advanced periodontitis can cause endotoxemia, the authors of this study divided 67 subjects into three groups: severe periodontal disease, moderate periodontal disease, or none (control group). Blood samples were collected and evaluated for endotoxins before and five to 10 minutes after standardized gum chewing.

Overall, endotoxins were significantly higher after mastication; positive endotoxemia increased from 6% to 24% after mastication. Endotoxin levels were much higher in the severe disease group than the other groups, as were positive cases of endotoxemia. Patients with severe gum disease were more than three times more likely to have endotoxemia than controls after chewing gum.

Conclusion: Diseased gums may be an underestimated source of chronic bacterial pro-inflammatory agents, according to the authors. They add, "This provides evidence that the periodontal pockets themselves can be a chronic source of passage of proinflammatory bacterial components in the bloodstream, thus supporting the hypothesis that periodontal disease could play a causative role in the development of systemic pathologies."

Geerts SO, Nys M, De Mol P, et al. Systemic release of endotoxins induced by gentle mastication: Association with periodontitis severity. Journal of Periodontology 2002:73(1), pp. 73-78.

Chiropractic Research Review

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