Researchers may have found a new method to test for warning signs of cardiovascular diseases, a study published on August 18 found.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the academic journal Frontiers in Oral Health, found that elevated white blood cells in the saliva of healthy young adults could be an early warning sign of cardiovascular issues to come.
“Even in young healthy adults, low levels of oral inflammatory load may have an impact on cardiovascular health — one of the leading causes of death in North America,” said author Dr. Trevor King of Mount Royal University, to science news outlet SciTechDaily.
“The mouth rinse test could be used at your annual checkup at the family doctor or the dentist,” said author Dr Michael Glogauer of the University of Toronto. “It is easy to implement as an oral inflammation measuring tool in any clinic.”
How can saliva warn of potential impending cardiovascular problems?
Using an oral rinse test, the researchers were able to measure the white blood cell count in 28 non-smoking healthy young adults aged between 18 and 30 years old. Higher levels of white blood cells were correlated to compromised flow-mediated dilation, which is a sign of poor blood flow.
Peridontitis, also commonly referred to as an infection of the gums, has already been proven to have a connection to the development of cardiovascular disease. Scientists have theorized that this is because of inflammation entering the bloodstream and spreading through the system.
“We are starting to see more relationships between oral health and risk of cardiovascular disease,” said author Ker-Yung Hong. “If we are seeing that oral health may have an impact on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease even in young healthy individuals, this holistic approach can be implemented earlier on.”
After the initial saline test, participants were told to lie down for 10 minutes. Following the window of inactivity, the scientists measured the blood pressure, flow dilation, and pulse-wave velocity of the participants
The researchers were able to measure the stiffness of participants’ arteries by using pulse-wave velocity. This revealed the amount of dilation that the arteries would allow. Greater dilation would allow for increased blood flow, which would reduce the risk of serious health conditions like a heart attack.
“Optimal oral hygiene is always recommended in addition to regular visits to the dentist, especially in light of this evidence,” said King. “But this study was a pilot study. We are hoping to increase the study population and explore those results. We are also hoping to include more individuals with gingivitis and more advanced periodontitis to more deeply understand the impact of different levels of gingival inflammation on cardiovascular measures.”