Scientists have long known that there was a link between gum disease, or periodontitis, and narrowing of the arteries, which leads to heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation was believed to be involved; however there was no proof to back this theory.

What new findings showed was that the gum disease had a direct impact on the health of blood vessels and that taking care of the gum problems would increase the ability of arteries to open up.

One hundred and twenty patients who suffered from severe periodontitis were included in the study and given either a standard or an intensive course of treatment, which included clearing away bacteria-filled plaque, and the extraction of teeth that were no longer safely rooted in the gum.
Sixty days after the treatment, the function if blood vessels of intensively treated patients had improved. The function improved at the same time the patient's gums became healthier.

The researchers reported that they managed to link inflammation and heart disease and that this study pointed out that the disease of the gums could be a potential source of the inflammation. However, they were unable to establish the precise mechanism by which gum disease affects the function of blood-vessel cell-walls. Since gum disease involves bacterial infection, it is thought that these bacteria could enter the bloodstream and damage the arteries or trigger a low-grade inflammatory response throughout the body.

The researchers will put their mind to better understanding of the nature of this connection and whether it could lead to the development of new treatments.