BOCA RATON, Florida — Nearly half of all adults age 30 and over have some form of gum disease.
For people over 65, that number jumps to over 70%.
Since several studies show dental problems now can lead to heart problems later, researchers are developing a first-of-its-kind toothpaste to help patients reduce their heart attack and stroke risk.
"I'd go to the dentist and there would be lots of complaints about plaque buildup," said Danelle Marlowe.
That might be a bigger concern than you first thought.
Studies show there is a correlation between plaque buildup and bacteria in our mouth to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
But orthodontist Dr. Lawrence Hier has created a toothpaste that can help people prevent heart disease.
"PlaqueHD is a toothpaste to replace your common toothpaste," he explained.
It works by highlighting in green the plaque on your teeth that you miss during brushing.
In clinical trials PlaqueHD removed two to four times the amount of plaque on tooth surfaces than conventional toothpaste.
"What it also does is it reduces a very specific protein in the blood called CRP," he said.
CPR stands for C-Reactive protein. It is a sensitive indicator of future risk for heart disease and stroke.
Two clinical trials were performed with PlaqueHD.
"The reductions in both trials were similar," noted Florida Atlantic University expert Dr. Charles Hennekens.
"They ranged between 30 to 50% reductions in the C-Reactive protein levels."
Any reduction is good for Denelle.
We have a lot of heart disease in my family, so that's always been in the forefront of my mind," she said.
To date, there's no proof that treating gum disease will prevent cardiovascular disease or its complications, but the connection is compelling enough that dentists, and many doctors, say it's yet another reason to be vigilant about preventing gum disease in the first place.
The trials were conducted by Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin College of Medicine.
The team is looking to conduct another trial to see if PlaqueHD decreases the progression of atherosclerosis by using CT scans of the coronary arteries to measure.