A new study encourages you to keep that appointment with your dentist as researchers have identified a higher risk of heart disease for those who have hidden tooth infections. About 610,000 deaths of both men and women in the U.S. are from heart disease, the leading cause of death. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is caused by a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that reduces blood flow to the heart.
Many risk factors for heart disease include obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but researchers are suggesting poor dental health should be added to this list. A study was published in Infection and Immunity that suggested the bacterium involved in gum disease might also raise the risk of heart disease. Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland have now uncovered a link between dental root tip infection, known as apical periodontitis, and a greater risk for acute coronary syndrome (ACS), an umbrella term for conditions that involve blocked blood flow to the coronary arteries. This is a condition characterized by inflammatory lesions of the pulp in the center of the tooth, usually caused by infection. Tooth decay is a common cause of apical periodontitis. This condition may not show up until later in the identification of infection.
John Liljestrange, co-author of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases at the University of Helsinki, along with colleagues, have published their findings in the Journal of Dental Research.
An apical periodontitis study was conducted which involved 508 individuals of a mean age of 62 who were part of The Finnish Parogene study and experiencing some heart problems. All in the study underwent angiography, which revealed that 36% had stable CAD and 33% had ACS. About 31% had no significant CAD. It was revealed that the patients with apical periodontitis were more likely to have CAD or ACS. Those requiring a root canal had a 2.7 times greater risk of ACS. Therefore, it is concluded that apical periodontitis can be considered a risk factor for heart disease. The team also found that patients with apical periodontitis had higher levels of antibodies in their blood that are associated with other common bacteria, which further suggests that oral infections can affect other areas of the body as well.
Protect yourself! If you think dental care isn’t important and at the bottom of your list, think again. Protect your heart health and adopt strategies to prevent or treat oral infections that might turn to something more critical.