- The clinical study that began in 1980 involved 755 young Finns aged 6, 9 and 12 years old.
- In 2007, after 27 years, a follow-up was done, and cardiovascular risk factors were measured at several time points.
- The researchers found that the more signs of oral infections in childhood, the higher the risk for atherosclerosis in adulthood.
A recent study conducted at the University of Helsinki in collaboration with The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study suggests that children who develop common oral problems such as caries and gum disease are more likely develop risk factors for heart diseases later in life.
“The observation is novel, since there are no earlier follow-up studies on childhood oral infections and the risk of cardiovascular diseases,” says docent Pirkko Pussinen from the University of Helsinki.
The researchers conducted dental examinations for 755 Finnish children aged 6, 9 and 12 in 1980 and followed-up 27 years later. The children were checked for signs of oral infections and inflammation including caries, fillings, bleeding on probing and probing pocket depth.
During the follow-up in 2007, the carotid artery intima-media thickness was measured. The thickening of the carotid artery wall signifies the progression of atherosclerosis and a heightened risk for myocardial or cerebral infection.
What are the findings of the research?
In a press release, the researchers said that from all the participants, 68%, 87%, and 82% had bleeding, caries, and fillings, respectively. There were no differences between the boys and the girls. Fifty-four percent of the children presented with slight periodontal pocketing and it was more frequent in the boys than in the girls. Five percent of the examined mouths were totally healthy, whereas 61% and 34% of the children had one to three signs and four signs of oral infections, respectively.
"The number of signs associated significantly with the cumulative exposure to the cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood, but especially in childhood," says professor Markus Juonala from the University of Turku and Turku University Hospital.
"Oral infections were an independent risk factor for subclinical atherosclerosis; and their association with cardiovascular risk factors persevered through the entire follow-up. Prevention and treatment of oral infections is important already in childhood,” concluded the researchers.
Read this research in detail at JAMA Network Open.