"It has been long suspected that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process, and that periodontal disease plays a role in atherosclerosis," senior researcher Dr. Mario Clerici of the Milan University Medical School in Italy said in a statement.
"Our study suggests that this is the case, and indicates that something as simple as taking good care of your teeth and gums can greatly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases."
The scientists examined the carotid arteries -- an artery that supplies the head and neck with oxygenated blood -- of 35 otherwise healthy people with a median age of 46 with mild to moderate periodontal disease before and after having their periodontal disease treated.
The study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, found that one year after treatment, the scientists observed a reduction in oral bacteria, immune inflammation and the thickening of the blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis.
"Because many Americans have some form of gum disease, this research can't be brushed aside," Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of The FASEB Journal said in a statement. "As it turns out, the health of our blood vessels could be hanging by the proverbial thread: dental floss."