This nested case-control study sought to determine whether an accelerated rate of leukocyte telomere length (LTL) shortening over 6 years was associated with chronic periodontitis.
We sampled cases (n = 178) with severe chronic periodontitis and controls (n = 178) with no/mild chronic periodontitis from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Controls were frequency-matched to cases by study site, age, sex and race. Age ranged from 53 to 73 years. Severe chronic periodontitis was defined using the CDC-AAP case classification. LTL was measured from DNA collected at two time points, 6 years apart, with quantitative polymerase chain reaction relative to a single-copy control gene. Multiple linear regression evaluated associations between LTL measured at baseline, follow-up and change scores with severe chronic periodontitis, adjusting for potential confounders.
Cases had shorter LTL than controls at baseline (p = 0.03) and follow-up (p = 0.04) after adjusting for confounding. Overall there was a net reduction in LTL over time (p = 0.02). The rate of LTL did not differ between cases and controls (p = 0.80).
Leukocyte telomere length shortening occurred at the same rate among adults with and without severe chronic periodontitis. This suggests that LTL shortening may have occurred earlier in the life course.