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The Relationship between Teeth and Heart Disease

Can the number of teeth you have be related to your risk of developing heart disease? A recent study says yes. Researchers say that losing your teeth could be linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. A recent study links fewer teeth as well as bleeding gums with a range of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

This particular line of thought is not new; researchers had previously found that poor dental hygiene and bleeding gums could allow up to 700 different types of bacteria to get into the bloodstream, which increases the risk of a heart attack regardless of how fit and healthy a person is.

However, this study is particularly interesting because it’s the first of its type. There has been little to no date on gum disease in patients with diagnosed heart disease. In this study, Swedish researchers looked at patients with chronic coronary heart disease taking part in a drugs trial and examined their dental health. The study was performed at Uppsala University in Sweden, with the following results:

  • Approximately 40% of patients had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 per cent had no teeth, while one in four reported gum bleeds. As the number of teeth decreased, the study found increasing levels of an enzyme that increases inflammation and promotes hardening of the arteries.
  • As the number of teeth decreased, other cardiac risk markers went up – including blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol, waistline circumference, and blood sugar.
  • Patients with fewer teeth had an increased chance of having diabetes

Though it’s unclear exactly how gum or periodontal disease affects heart health, it is thought that heart disease (and other chronic health problems) is caused by inflammation into the bloodstream. One possible scenario is that oral bacteria enter the bloodstream and activate the immune system, making artery walls inflamed and narrowed. Or, they may attach directly to fatty deposits already present in the arteries which causes further narrowing.

What is very clear is that regular check-ups are important for reducing the risk of periodontal disease, which in turn can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. At Back Bay Dental, we stress the importance of a basic periodontal screening at least once a year, for all of our patients. A thorough and regular screening can diagnose periodontal disease early, and establish a treatment plan before it affects your overall health.

Call us at (617) 247-9966 or visit our website if you have any questions about your dental health or would like to schedule a dental checkup!

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