Karim El Kholy Publishes Research on Link Between Oral Health and Cardiovascular Disease

October 31, 2023

Karim El Kholy, DDS, associate professor of dental medicine at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, is among a team of researchers that has linked periodontal inflammation to adverse cardiovascular events, according to research published in the Journal of Periodontology and the Journal of American College of Cardiology Imaging.

Dr. Karim El Kholy

The research was based on a longitudinal study that demonstrated that oral inflammation associated with active gum disease was predictive of arterial inflammation, which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and other dangerous manifestations of cardiovascular disease.

The research team used PET and CT scans of 304 individuals to assess inflammation in the arteries and gums of each patient. Four years later, 13 of those individuals developed major adverse cardiovascular events. The link between periodontal inflammation and adverse cardiovascular events existed, even after investigators controlled for other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Local periodontal inflammation activates and mobilizes cells signaling through bone marrow, which triggers the inflammation of arteries, leading to major adverse cardiovascular events.

“To our knowledge, this is the first advanced imaging study to link periodontal inflammation to subsequent major adverse cardiovascular events,” El Kholy said. “These results underscore the hypothesis that improving oral health and control of periodontal inflammation can reduce arterial inflammation and significantly reduce the risk for future major adverse cardiovascular events.”

Additionally, the researchers determined the adverse cardiovascular effects of periodontal disease could be reversed. Patients who did not have actively inflamed gums had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease-even if those individuals had a prior history of periodontal disease as evidenced by their CT scans.

The research has been recognized by Wiley, publisher of the Journal of Periodontology, as a top-cited article.