(RxWiki News) Healthy gums make for a winning smile, but poor gum health may lead to other health problems. A new study suggests that periodontal disease in blacks might increase their risk for chronic kidney disease.
Blacks have higher rates of periodontal disease than other groups, noted the authors of the new study. They are also more likely to develop chronic kidney disease.
The study found that severe periodontal disease was a major risk factor for chronic kidney disease in blacks. The researchers noted that preventing and treating periodontal disease might reduce kidney disease in blacks.
Vanessa Grubbs, MD, of the University of California San Francisco led the study. Dr. Grubbs and team studied black adults who had complete dental exams. At the time of the exams, the patients had normal kidney function.
The researchers followed 699 patients for an average of 4.8 years. The patients were 60.5 years old on average. Of the 699 patients, 21 patients — or 3 percent — developed chronic kidney disease during the follow-up period, and 115 had severe periodontal disease.
Patients who had severe periodontal disease were 4.2 times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those who did not have severe periodontal disease. Chronic kidney disease can eventually cause kidney failure.
Dr. Grubbs and colleagues assessed other risk factors like the patient’s age, sex and income. They also included smoking status and conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.
Periodontal disease typically begins with gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. If not treated, the patient’s gums pull away from the teeth. The resulting spaces around the gums can become infected. The body responds by fighting bacteria that get below the gum line. Eventually, toxins from the bacteria and the body’s natural response can destroy gums, teeth and bone.
“Because periodontal disease is common and can be prevented and treated, targeting it may be an important path towards reducing existing racial and ethnic disparities in chronic and end-stage kidney disease,” Dr. Grubbs said in a press release.
The research team noted that further research was needed to determine whether periodontal disease was a cause of chronic kidney disease. If periodontal disease does cause kidney disease, research should be aimed at finding out whether treating periodontal disease could decrease the risk for chronic kidney disease, Dr. Grubbs and team wrote.
The study was presented Nov. 14 at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week 2014 in Philadelphia. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and private foundations funded the study. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.