A new study shows that a saliva test can detect early signs of cardiovascular disease in young, healthy people
A groundbreaking study conducted by scientists at Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada, has found that a quick and simple mouthwash can help detect signs of cardiovascular disease in young, otherwise healthy people. The study found that measuring white blood cell levels in saliva can be an effective way to detect periodontitis, a gum disease that is linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other serious health conditions. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Oral Health
Detecting periodontal disease and its link to CVDs
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It has been linked to a variety of diseases, including CVD, oral and colorectal cancer, lung infection, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. While previous studies have focused on the relationship between oral inflammation and CVD in older adults, the purpose of this study was to determine whether less severe inflammation may affect cardiovascular health in younger adults.
The researchers developed a non-invasive method for detecting periodontal disease that does not require a visit to the dentist. By measuring levels of neutrophils, white blood cells that play a critical role in the immune system’s defense mechanism, they were able to assess the degree of inflammation in the mouth and the severity of periodontal disease. This indicator, known as oral inflammatory burden (OIB), has proven to be a reliable indicator of cardiovascular risk.
Methodology and results of the study
Twenty-eight non-smoking men and women aged 18 to 30 years with no history of periodontal disease participated in the study. Before submitting a saliva sample, participants abstained from food and beverages (except water) for 6 hours and abstained from physical activity, alcohol, and caffeine for at least 8 hours. They rinsed their mouths with tap water, then swallowed saline solution for 30 seconds before withdrawing it into a test tube for analysis.
In addition to measuring blood pressure, the researchers assessed the condition of the arteries by measuring their stiffness using pulse wave velocity and flow-mediated dilation. These measurements are key indicators of cardiovascular risk. The study found that participants with high neutrophil counts in saliva had significantly lower flow-mediated dilation rates, indicating an increased risk of developing CVD in the future. However, no correlation was observed between neutrophil count and pulse wave velocity, suggesting that longer-term effects on arterial stiffness have yet to be seen.
Relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular health
Researchers hypothesize that periodontal disease affects cardiovascular health by causing inflammation in the mouth and seeping into the blood vessels. This inflammation disrupts the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the arteries, which is responsible for keeping blood vessels open and preventing them from being damaged by substances such as cholesterol entering the bloodstream.
This groundbreaking study highlights the potential of a simple saliva test to identify individuals at risk of developing CVD, especially those who are otherwise healthy. If further research confirms the findings, the test could become a routine part of annual check-ups by doctors or dentists.
Trevor King, corresponding author of the study, emphasized the importance of oral health in maintaining cardiovascular health, “Even in young, healthy adults, low levels of oral inflammatory burden can have an impact on cardiovascular health, one of the leading causes of death in North America.” He believes this study opens new avenues for early detection and prevention of cardiovascular disease.