"Gum bug, leave my heart alone!"-epidemiologic and mechanistic evidence linking periodontal infections and atherosclerosis

M. Kebschull, R. T. Demmer, P. N. Papapanou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

329 Scopus citations


Evidence from epidemiologic studies suggests that periodontal infections are independently associated with subclinical and clinical atherosclerotic vascular disease. Although the strength of the reported associations is modest, the consistency of the data across diverse populations and a variety of exposure and outcome variables suggests that the findings are not spurious or attributable only to the effects of con-founders. Analysis of limited data from interventional studies suggests that periodontal treatment generally results in favorable effects on subclinical markers of atherosclerosis, although such analysis also indicates considerable heterogeneity in responses. Experimental mechanistic in vitro and in vivo studies have established the plausibility of a link between periodontal infections and atherogenesis, and have identified biological pathways by which these effects may be mediated. However, the utilized models are mostly mono-infections of host cells by a limited number of ĝ€model periodontal pathogens, and therefore may not adequately portray human periodontitis as a polymicrobial, biofilm-mediated disease. Future research must identify in vivo pathways in humans that may (i) lead to periodontitis-induced atherogenesis, or (ii) result in treatment-induced reduction of atherosclerosis risk. Data from these studies will be essential for determining whether periodontal interventions have a role in the primary or secondary prevention of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-902
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of dental research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Kebschull was supported by the German Research Council/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Clinical Research Unit 208, TP6 & TP9), Dr. Demmer by NIH grant # K99 DE-018739, and Dr. Papapanou by NIH grants #DE-015649 and CTSA Award #RR-025158, and by a grant from Colgate-Palmolive, USA.


  • atherosclerosis
  • epidemiology
  • infection
  • mechanisms
  • periodontal


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