In a European study of more than 15,000 individuals with coronary heart disease, it was clear that people with poor oral health are at a much higher risk for numerous heart risks, which reminds us that maintaining good oral health is an essential part of maintaining your overall health.
Tooth Loss and Heart Risks
In this study, which was mostly focused on the use of a particular drug to control plaque buildup in the arteries, 15,828 people from 39 countries–all of whom had coronary heart disease–were given a survey, had physical exams, and underwent testing. As part of the survey, they reported how many teeth they had left and whether they experienced gum bleeding when brushing teeth.
About 16% of subjects reported that they had lost all their teeth, and 41% had fewer than 15 teeth left. About a quarter (26%) said they experienced gum bleeding when brushing teeth.
When researchers performed a statistical analysis, they found that increasing tooth loss was significantly associated with many risk factors for heart disease, including:
- LDL cholesterol levels
- Systolic blood pressure
- Higher fasting glucose levels
- Waist circumference
While gum bleeding was associated with the first two items as well.
Although about 70% of participants were smokers and many had confounding conditions, the association remained even after correcting for common risk factors, such as age, smoking, diabetes, and education level. Because of the strength of the association, researchers concluded that gum disease is an important marker for heart disease risk. They stopped short of positing a causal link between gum disease and heart disease.
Does Gum Disease Cause Heart Disease?
This is the big question that many people seem reluctant to answer. A simple association doesn’t prove causation, but we have more than a simple association. We know, for example, that oral bacteria lives in the arterial plaque that contributes to heart disease. We also know that treating gum disease reduces biological markers of cardiovascular risk. And we know that treating gum disease reduces the cost of caring for heart disease and other conditions.
We haven’t just found the smoking gun of heart disease: we have found the finger on the trigger. And we know how to disarm it.
With good home care (including daily flossing), regular check-up and hygiene visits, and gum disease treatment, you can protect your heart. If you are overdue for a dentist appointment or notice gum bleeding, please call 610-272-0828 for an appointment at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell in Philadelphia.