Heart disease

Gum Disease & Teeth Loss Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes and High Cholesterol

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Bleeding gums are not normal. In fact, it can be a sign that you are at risk for, or you may already have periodontal (gum) disease. Left untreated, cavity-causing bacteria build up in between the teeth and settle under the gumline.

Previous research says that poor oral hygiene and bleeding gums could allow up to 700 different types of bacteria to escape into the bloodstream and trigger life-threatening clots and endocarditis (inflammation of the heart). This alone, increases the risk of heart attacks regardless of how healthy or fit we are.

With 15,828 participants from 39 countries (nearly 40% had fewer than 15 teeth, 16% had no teeth, while 25% reported gum bleeds) in a study carried out at the Uppsala University in Sweden, scientists found out that:

  • For every fall in the number of teeth recorded, there was a rise in the levels of a harmful enzyme that promotes inflammation and hardening of the arteries.
  • With fewer teeth came a significant rise in other heart disease risk markers, including "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and higher blood sugar, blood pressure and waist size.
  • People with fewer teeth were also more likely to have diabetes, with the risk increasing 11% for every significant decrease in the number of teeth.
  • Bleeding gums were linked with higher levels of bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Effective oral hygiene and regular dental visits are your best chances in keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

The researchers added that they are still uncertain with what is behind the association between tooth loss, gum health and heart health. Professor Robin Seymour of Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) 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,’ said Professor Seymour.

Effective oral hygiene and regular dental visits are your best chances in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Remember that gum disease is often silent, meaning symptoms may not appear until its advanced stage.

When was the last time you or anyone in your family had a periodontal screening?