Midlife Tooth Loss May Compromise Heart Health

CVD is an umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. This includes diseases of the blood vessels that supply: the brain (such as stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases); the heart muscle (coronary heart disease); and the arms and legs (peripheral arterial disease).

It also includes other conditions that can damage the heart (such as rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease), as well as conditions in which blood clots form and block the blood supply (such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism).

CVD is the primary cause of death worldwide. In 2015, it claimed 17.7 million lives, including 7.4 million due to coronary head disease and 6.7 million due to stroke.

It was first thought that poor oral health might actually cause CVD, “through infection and inflammation.” However, more recently, scientists have concluded that poor oral health indicates the presence of— rather than causes — atherosclerosis and they therefore propose that it might serve as a risk marker of CVD.

For the investigation, Prof. Qi and his team focused on tooth loss and coronary heart disease. They pooled and analyzed data on thousands of men and women aged 45—69 who were followed in two large studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).

As the participants had been asked about their number of natural teeth when they enrolled, as well as about recent tooth loss in follow-up questionnaires, the researchers were able to assess tooth loss over a period of 8 years.

The team then compared this recent tooth loss pattern to incidence of coronary heart disease over a subsequent follow-up period of 12—18 years.

The scientists conclude that their results suggest “that among middle-aged adults, a higher number of teeth lost in the recent past may be associated with subsequent risk of [coronary heart disease], independent of the baseline number of natural teeth and traditional risk factors.”

Author: Catharine Paddock PhD

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