Carolinas HealthCare System

Grant Worth $3.7 Million to Study Poor Oral Hygiene and Heart Disease Correlation

Michael Brennan, DDS, MHS
Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine

Carolinas HealthCare System’s Department of Oral Medicine has received a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of poor oral hygiene and periodontal (gum) disease in patients who develop an infection of the heart valves, known as infective endocarditis (IE).
Nearly 30 percent of IE originates from oral bacteria, which often moves from the inflamed tissue around the teeth into the blood stream, thus infecting the heart tissue.

“While there is existing scientific evidence supporting the idea that patients with poor oral hygiene could be at risk for developing infective endocarditis, that data is not strong enough to imply a direct correlation,” says Michael Brennan, DDS, MHS, chair of the department of oral medicine. Dr. Brennan, along with Geoffrey Rose, MD, chief of cardiology at the System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, are site co-investigators on the study, which stems from previous evidence suggesting a relationship between IE and poor oral hygiene.

Peter Lockhart, DDS

Peter Lockhart, DDS
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Oral Medicine.

Peter Lockhart, DDS, professor emeritus in the department of oral medicine, is the principal investigator for this five-year grant, which also involves dentists and cardiologists at three patient enrollment sites: Carolinas Medical Center, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Kings Daughter’s Medical Center in Kentucky.

Dr. Lockhart added, “This funding will enable our research team to define the association between dental disease and IE, and thereby determine if dental disease is a risk factor that can be prevented for the millions of people in the country who have heart valve disorders. This could potentially result in major implications for clinical practice and public health internationally.”

Learn more about the Department of Oral Medicine research