Study finds link between severe gum disease and higher mortality rate in cirrhosis patients

The results of the study were presented at The International Liver Congress in Amsterdam.

Periodontitis can have a serious impact on your overall health. Not only does it break down your bone, ligaments and gums, but periodontitis also has been linked to other serious health conditions.

For instance, in 2016 Chinese researchers found that individuals with periodontal disease may be at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Also last year, a study jointly led by the University of Southampton and King’s College London discovered a link between gum disease and greater rates of cognitive decline in people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Last month, researchers presented results at The International Liver Congress 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands from a prospective study in patients with cirrhosis, or irreversible scarring of the liver, that demonstrated severe periodontitis strongly predicts higher mortality.
The study enrolled 184 patients with cirrhosis, all of whom had their oral health assessed. The patients were clinically followed-up for one year on average. At the start of the study, about 44 percent of the patients had severe periodontitis. According to the results, nearly half of the patients died during the follow-up period. Severe periodontitis was associated with higher all-cause mortality with an even stronger association in patients with cirrhosis.

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The association of periodontitis with higher cirrhosis mortality was adjusted for gender, age, alcohol use, cirrhosis etiology, smoker status, comorbidity, nutritional risk score, Child-Pugh score and Model of End-Stage Liver Disease score.
“Our study showed that severe periodontitis strongly predicted higher mortality in cirrhosis, says Lea Ladegaard Grønkjaer, PhD, RN, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, and lead author of the study. Periodontitis may act as a persistent source of oral bacterial translocation, causing inflammation and increasing cirrhosis complications. As it can be treated successfully, however, we hope that our findings motivate more trials on this subject.”
Terrence J. Griffin, DMD, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, says the results of the study are not surprising, given the growing body of evidence linking periodontal disease to other systemic conditions. He believes additional research is needed for researchers and clinicians to gain a better understanding of this topic and the impact it has on patients.

“Awareness of a patient’s physical and dental health is important for both periodontists and physicians,” Griffin says. “I’ve long advocated for the team approach to care for periodontal disease, particularly for individuals who are undergoing treatment for systemic ailments. While we have yet to learn more about the relationship between liver disease and periodontal disease, we advise medical and dental professionals to ask patients questions about their overall health and to confer with each other when necessary to ensure that the patient is receiving optimal care.”