We often hear about the links between gum disease and heart disease, especially among older Americans. And while it’s obvious that the body is an interconnected machine with intricate functions, learning about the associations between different diseases is complex. A recently released study of normal kidney function found an association between gum disease, or periodontitis, and kidney disease.

In a study of those with normal kidney function, those with severe gum disease developed chronic kidney disease at a rate 4 times faster than those who did not suffer from severe gum disease. This study will be presented at the ASN Kidney Week 2014 to inspire further research on the topic.

The study concentrated its focus on African American patients, because gum disease is a chronic infection that disproportionately affects African Americans. This oral cavity infection has been implicated as a risk factor for kidney disease, which would lead to African Americans having a higher risk for this disease as well. A University of San Francisco researcher and her team analyzed almost 700 African American adults, who underwent dental examinations and kidney exams.

The the follow up of nearly 5 years showed how 21 of these patients (about 3%) developed a new chronic kidney disease. Participants with severe gum disease had a 4.2 time increase in the rate of developing kidney disease after adjusting for age, sex, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, and income than those without periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is common but can easily be prevented and treated in its earliest stages, this research may shed new light on reducing racial disparity between kidney disease development. Researchers hope to further target this population and conduct studies to verify the link and confirm an association.