One of the most important facts that people neglect about oral health is that it’s a vital foundation for overall health. If you aren’t taking care of your teeth, you aren’t taking care of your health. And now a new study makes that connection clear: people who lose teeth during middle age are at a higher risk for heart disease than those who keep their teeth.
Charting Tooth Loss and Heart Risk
Researchers in this study reviewed the records of people who participated in previous large studies. The adults were initially age 45-69, and none of them had heart disease at the time. These subjects also reported recent tooth loss in follow-up questionnaires. Then researchers divided these people into groups of no tooth loss, one lost tooth, and two or more lost teeth during the 8 years following the previous studies. Then they looked at the incidence of heart disease in the 12-18 years after the previous studies.
They found that people who started the study with a full set of teeth (25-32) but lost two or more had a 23% higher risk of heart disease. Those who had fewer than 17 teeth at the beginning of the study also had elevated risk, about 25% higher than those with no tooth loss.
People who lost one tooth during the follow-up period did not have significantly elevated risk of heart disease.
Risk levels are after corrections were made for other risk factors known to affect heart disease, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure.
What’s the Link?
This study is one of the clearest demonstrations that oral health problems (tooth loss in this case), precede heart disease risk. The fact that it was promoted by the American Heart Association, which has traditionally been resistant to oral health-heart health risks, gives it even more credibility. However, what the study doesn’t show us is how, exactly, the two conditions are linked.
One obvious potential link is gum disease. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in America. So it makes sense that this could be the link. Gum disease has previously been linked to heart disease, and oral bacteria can play a significant role in coronary artery disease.
On the other hand, the link may be secondary. People who lose teeth might be more likely to switch to a diet of processed foods, higher in sugar and fat, which could contribute to their heart disease risk.
We hope that future research will establish the connection more strongly.
Prevention and Restoration Can Both Help
The best approach to protecting your oral and overall health is preventive dental care. This will keep you from developing gum disease and will protect your teeth. This can help you avoid some of the related risks, including, potentially, heart disease.
But even if you’ve lost some teeth, you can still safeguard your health. First, getting regular dental care can help you control and eliminate gum disease, limiting damage to your heart. And replacement of lost teeth with functional restorations like a dental bridge or dental implants will help you maintain a healthy diet that can help you protect your heart, too.
Are you looking for a dentist that can help manage your overall health, not just your mouth? Please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with a River Edge dentist at the River Edge Dental Center for General & Cosmetic Dentistry.