Teeth loss linked to heart attacks, diabetes and high cholesterol

Losing your teeth could signal a higher risk of suffering heart disease and diabetes, warn researchers.

A new study links fewer teeth and bleeding gums with a range of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Experts say getting gum disease treated with a dental check-up every year could cut the risk of developing heart disease. Previously, researchers found 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 the person is.

Gum disease causes bad breath, bleeding gums and, if untreated, cavities, receding gums and tooth loss after bacteria or plaque settles between teeth and under the gumline.

It has been linked to chronic health problems including heart disease, thought to be caused by inflammation into the bloodstream.

In the first study of its type, Swedish researchers looked at patients with chronic coronary heart disease taking part in a drugs trial and examined their dental health.

At the start of the study, 15,828 study participants from 39 countries reported their remaining number of teeth, classified as: none, 1-14, 15-19, 20-25 or 26-32, and frequency of gum bleeds: never/rarely, sometimes, often or always.

Around 40 per cent of patients had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 per cent had no teeth, while one in four reported gum bleeds. For every fall in the number of teeth recorded, the study found increasing levels of an enzyme that increases inflammation and promotes hardening of the arteries.

Other cardiac risk markers also went up as the number of teeth dropped, including 'bad' cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and waist circumference.

Patients with fewer teeth also had more chance of having diabetes, with the odds increasing by 11 per cent for every fall in the number of teeth category.

Bleeding gums were associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
The study was carried out at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Professor Robin Seymour , a member of the Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) which is backed by the healthcare provider, said although several studies have proposed a link between dental and heart health, there was little data on gum disease in patients with diagnosed heart disease.

He said it was unclear how gum, or periodontal, disease affected heart health.

One possibility is that oral bacteria entering the bloodstream may activate the immune system, making artery walls inflamed and narrowed, or attach directly to fatty deposits already present in the arteries which causes further narrowing.

Prof Seymour said generalised body inflammation might cause both conditions, or gum disease might be the trigger for cardiovascular disease.

He said 'What is clear is that people can reduce their risk of periodontal disease by regularly visiting the dentist.

'Check-ups and treatment for periodontal disease may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, it is vital for people to go through basic periodontal screening at least once a year so that a thorough inspection of periodontal tissues can be achieved.' An Australian study last year found women with gum disease took an extra two months to get pregnant compared with women with healthy teeth and gums.

It took around seven months on average for women with poor oral hygiene to conceive, but just five months for those who brushed their teeth properly.

Other researchers found a link between high levels of dental plaque, or bacteria, and cancer death up to 13 years earlier than expected.

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