Gum Disease, Heart Disease and Longevity
A number of studies link dental disease to coronary heart disease. In one study, researchers found a relationship between dental disease and mortality. The study is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It was conducted in the United States and included 9,760 subjects and several important discoveries resulted from this study.
The study showed that those with periodontitis (the more serious form of gum disease) had a 25% increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to those with minimal, or no, periodontal disease. It’s interesting to note that caries (decay) was also evaluated but was not observed to be a factor in coronary heart disease.
In men under 50, periodontal disease was an even stronger risk factor. In this group, men with periodontitis had nearly twice the risk of coronary heart disease than men who had little or no periodontal disease. In the total population (men and women of all ages) the amount of dental debris (dental plaque) and calculus (tartar), found in the more serious forms of gum disease, was indicative of a higher risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Gum Disease and Increased Risk of Dying
The study also showed that the severity of periodontal disease increased the risk of early deaths more than the risk of coronary heart disease. When compared to subjects with little or no periodontal disease, individuals with gingivitis (the less severe form of periodontal disease) had an approximately 23% higher risk of death. Those with periodontitis, or no teeth, had about a 50% higher risk of dying. From a life extension standpoint, these findings could be significant because gingivitis is more common than the more severe form of the disease. But the fact is that either form of gum disease can shorten your life-expectancy.
Another study explored the role of chronic bacterial infections as risk factors for heart disease, and the association between poor dental health and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). The selected patients had worse dental health than controls matched for age and sex. This study showed that the relationship between dental health and heart attack remained significant even after adjustment for age, social class, hypertension, smoking, and presence of diabetes.
It was concluded that toxins from bacteria may be related to heart attack and dental health, and could not be excluded as causative factors.
Another interesting study showed a relationship between missing teeth and coronary heart disease. I find this significant because both periodontal disease and decay can cause tooth loss. While some studies have shown that decay is not a direct risk factor, it can and does cause tooth loss, which has been demonstrated to be a secondary factor in heart attack.
Periodontal (Gum) Disease and Heart Attack: Connecting the Dots
Now it is time to connect the dots. Heart attack is the leading cause of death in the United States. At least 80% of the population has some form of gum disease and gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss. No one will argue that gum disease is the main cause of heart attack but it is a significant risk factor. Eliminating gum disease will decrease that risk factor and the good news is that gum disease is preventable.
Over the past 30 years I’ve consulted with thousands of people with gum disease. Not one of them was aware that gum disease could increase the risk of a heart attack and substantially increase their risk of dying from a heart attack. When informed of the relationship between gum disease and the risk of heart attack every one of them finally understood that eliminating gum disease was no longer about saving their teeth, but about saving their lives. All the information you will ever need to know to eliminate this disease from your life is found in Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body: How to Improve Your Oral and Overall Health.