A research team in Canada has suggested that the early warning signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD) may be gleaned from a simple saliva sample, according to a study published earlier in August in Frontiers in Oral Health.
A group led by Dr. Trevor King of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, used a simple oral rinse to see if levels of white blood cells (WBCs) -- an indicator of gum inflammation -- in the saliva of healthy adults could be linked to the warning signs of CVD. They found that high levels of WBCs correlated with compromised flow-mediated dilation, an early indicator of poor arterial health.
"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,” King said in a news release from the university.
The researchers recruited 28 nonsmokers between the ages of 18 and 30 with no comorbidities or medications that could affect CVD risk. The study participants had no reported history of periodontal disease. They were asked to fast for six hours, except for drinking water, before visiting the lab.
At the lab, participants first rinsed their mouths with water before rinsing with saline, which was collected for analysis. Participants then lay down for 10 minutes for an electrocardiogram. They remained in a prone position for another 10 minutes so scientists could assess their blood pressure, flow-mediated dilation, and pulse-wave velocity.
A high WBC count in the collected saliva samples showed a significant association with poor flow-mediated dilation, suggesting that these individuals may be at heightened risk of CVD, the authors wrote.
However, there was no relationship between a high WBC count and pulse wave velocity, suggesting that longer-term impacts on the health of the arteries had not yet taken place, the group noted.
"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,” the group concluded.