Dental Plaque Buildup May Raise Heart Risk in Black Men

HealthDay News, October 2, 2009

Black males may be at increased risk for heart problems caused by accumulation of dental plaque, a U.S. study finds.

Indiana University School of Dentistry researchers studied 128 black and white women and men and found that a buildup of dental plaque didn’t cause a change in total white blood cell count, a known risk factor for heart problems. However, dental plaque accumulation in black males was associated with a significant increase in the activity of white blood cells called neutrophils, an important part of the immune system, the researchers noted.

None of the study participants had periodontal (gum) disease. They were healthy people who were asked to neglect their oral hygiene as part of the study, the study authors explained.

“We are talking about healthy people who simply neglect oral hygiene and if they were male and black, we found a response from their white blood cells, or neutrophils, that might be a cause for concern,” study leader Michael Kowolik, a professor of periodontics and associate dean for graduate education at the school of dentistry, said in a university news release.

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An elevated white blood cell count is one of the major risks for heart attack, previous research has found.

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The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

[Editor’s Note: “Neutrophil Response to Dental Plaque by Gender and Race,” by V.Y. Wahaidi, S.A. Dowsett, G.J. Eckert, and M.J. Kowolik, can be read here. There is a charge.]

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