BIRMINGHAM, England, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Chronic kidney disease patients who also have gum disease die at higher rates than those without gum disease, according to a new study conducted in England.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham found periodontitis may add to the systemic inflammation contributing to CKD, and increasing mortality for people with both of the chronic condition.
Gum disease is the sixth most prevalent human disease, affecting 11.2 percent of the global population. Previous research has also linked poor oral health to heart disease, knee pain, Alzheimer's disease, and several types of cancer.
"It's important to note that oral health isn't just about teeth," Iain Chapple, a professor at the University of Birmingham, said in a press release. "The mouth is the doorway to the body, rather than a separate organ, and is the access point for bacteria to enter the bloodstream via the gums. A lot of people with gum disease aren't aware of it, perhaps they just have blood in their spit after brushing teeth, but this unchecked damage to gums then becomes a high risk area for the rest of the body."
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, researchers analyzed dental and medical records for 13,784 participants in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, focusing on 861 people with chronic kidney disease.
With a median follow-up of 14.3 years, researchers found the 10-year mortality rate for people with CKD was 32 percent. For patients who also have periodontitis, the rate increases to 41 percent. The effect was also seen in patients who have diabetes in addition to CKD, with the death rate increasing to 43 percent in 10 years.
Based on the link, Chapple said diagnosis of gum disease could allow dentists to play a role in diagnosing chronic diseases, which may help prevent early deaths from the conditions.
Establishing the link may also help motivate prevention of gum disease and other chronic diseases where possible.
"We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the interplay between gum disease and other chronic diseases -- whether that be kidney disease, diabetes or cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Praveen Sharma, a professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham. "Knowing the heightened risk that gum disease presents to patients who already have another chronic disease tells us that oral health has a significant role to play in improving patient outcomes."