"Perio" means around, and "dontal" refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, the infection affects the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the tissues are involved.
Researchers are studying possible connections between gum disease and:
- Atherosclerosis and heart disease — Gum disease may increase the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease, although the extent of this connection is unclear. Gum disease also is believed to worsen existing heart disease.
- Stroke — Gum disease may increase the risk of the type of stroke that is caused by blocked arteries.
- Diabetes — People with diabetes and periodontal disease may be more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetics with healthy gums.
- Respiratory disease— Gum disease may cause lung infections and worsen existing lung conditions when bacteria from the mouth reach the lungs.
Speaking to the Global Forum on Nicotine, Holliday said that smokers and alcohol drinkers increase the risk of contracting oral cancer by 38 times. He said: “Severe periodontitis is the sixth most common [and preventable] condition in the world, and smoking is the biggest risk factor.
When considering vaping and periodontal diseases, Holliday referred to the in vitro (petri dish) studies listed in the graphic below – but highlighted that they all had “questionable methodologies” and the data “interpretation can be very different depending upon your point of view.”
It contrasts strongly with the clinical studies that, although small scale, all demonstrated clear improvements when someone stopped smoking and switched to vaping.
Holliday is now carrying out a feasibility randomised controlled trial (the most robust type of study) of 80 smokers with periodontitis. “All of our patients are at the severe end of dental gum disease, they all get the same treatment, and what we are changing in the study is the different type of smoking cessation support,” Richard added.
Holliday is hoping that initial results will start to be released in about a year’s time. It sounds really positive and a great contribution to our body of knowledge about vaping.