Tooth loss could be a sign of hypertension and other risk factors for heart patients.
If you have poor dental health, especially tooth loss, researchers say take note as it may be associated with cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.
While several studies have proposed a link between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease, studies on periodontal disease in patients who already have heart disease, are few.
Researchers, who presented their findings at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) 62nd Annual Scientific Session, investigated the prevalence of self-reported tooth loss and occurrence of gum bleeds, as surrogate markers of periodontal disease. They also explored their relation to cardiovascular risk factors in high-risk patients with heart disease.
The study involved 15,828 participants from 39 countries who are part of the ongoing STABILITY study ― a global clinical trial evaluating the anti-atherosclerosis drug darapladib. At outset, the participants reported their remaining number of teeth, categorized as none, 1-14, 15-19, 20-25 or 26-32, and frequency of gum bleeds, never/rarely, sometimes, often or always. Data on cardiovascular risk factors were also gathered. They analyzed the statistics adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes and education. Approximately 40 percent of participants had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 percent had no teeth; 25 percent of subjects reported gum bleeds.
For every decrease in number of teeth, researchers observed increasing levels of Lp-PLA2 ― an enzyme that increases cardiac risk markers including blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, blood sugar, and waist circumference. It also causes inflammation and promotes hardening of the arteries.
Greater loss of teeth was also associated with being a current or former smoker compared to being a non-smoker and having a lower education. While gum bleeds were associated with higher levels of blood pressure, bad cholesterol, being a non-smoker and having a higher education.
According to a press release from the ACC, a nonprofit medical society, the researchers were surprised by the large proportion of patients with no or very few teeth and had expected somewhat stronger associations between gum bleeding and cardiovascular risk factors.
“Gum bleeding is an early manifestation of periodontal disease, whereas tooth loss represents the final stage,” said study lead investigator Ola Vedin, MD, from the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University, Sweden. “Therefore, one theory is that patients with gum bleeding but little or no tooth loss have had less and shorter exposure to the processes of periodontitis and have thus developed fewer complications.”
According to Dr. Vedin, it is not yet proven whether periodontal disease causes coronary heart disease or just share common risk factors. She said that more studies are needed to “unravel the potential for periodontal health to be a useful risk marker for heart disease. If future research can confirm a causal relationship, dentists could play an important role in cardiovascular risk assessment.”