Patients with chronic kidney disease and periodontitis have a higher mortality rate than patients with chronic kidney disease alone, according to the University of Birmingham. Researchers note that these findings add to the growing evidence for poor oral health’s associations with other chronic diseases.
“It’s important to note that oral health isn’t just about teeth,” said professor Iain Chapple. “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.”
Data from 13,734 participants in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) in the United States revealed that subjects with both periodontal disease and chronic kidney disease had an all-cause mortality rate of 41% at 10 years. Those who only had chronic kidney disease had a rate of 32%.
For comparison, diabetics with chronic kidney disease face a 43% 10-year mortality rate, compared to 32% for non-diabetics with chronic kidney disease. Also, periodontitis affects 11.2% of the world’s population and is the sixth most prevalent human disease. Overall, the researchers said, 92% of older adults have at least one chronic disease.
“We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the interplay between gum disease and other chronic diseases,” said Praveen Sharma, a coauthor of the study, “whether that be kidney disease, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.”
The researchers note that rates of chronic noncommunicable diseases such as kidney disease are growing because of an aging population, more sedentary lifestyles, and refined diets. They also say that their impact on the global disease burden and healthcare economy is significant.
“Knowing that 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,” Sharma said.
“It may be that the diagnosis of gum disease can provide an opportunity for early detection of other problems, whereby dental professionals could adopt a targeted, risk-based approach to screening for other chronic diseases,” said Chapple.
Next, the researchers plan on investigating the link between gum and kidney disease further to identify if it is a causal association, as well as if treating gum disease and improving oral health can improve the overall health of patients with kidney disease.