(HealthDay News) – Improvements in periodontal health are associated with improvements in the progression of atherosclerosis, according to a study published online Oct. 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Moise Desvarieux, MD, PhD, from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues examined the association between periodontal status (presence of 11 known periodontal bacterial species in subgingival samples and the number of sites with a ≥3mm clinical probing depth) and carotid artery intima-medial thickness (IMT) in 420 subjects living in northern Manhattan (mean age, 68 years).

Over a median three-year follow-up period, and after adjusting for various factors, the researchers found that as probing depth improved over time, carotid artery IMT progression also improved. Similarly, improvements in microbial status with time were also associated with improvements in carotid artery IMT progression. The difference in carotid artery IMT change was about 0.1mm over the three years between subjects with worsening vs. improving periodontal health, a rate of progression that the authors note has been previously associated with 2.3-fold higher risk of coronary events.

“Longitudinal improvement in clinical and microbial periodontal status is related to a decreased rate of carotid artery IMT progression at three-year average follow-up,” Desvarieux and colleagues conclude.

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