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Laura Dorr is the former executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network and a regular contributing author.
A recent study found that tooth loss could be a predictor for future cardiovascular events, diabetes and even death.
Many patients with advanced tooth loss have a history of inflammatory oral diseases, such as periodontitis. Periodontitis has previously been linked to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes. Affecting the tissue supporting the tooth, periodontitis can result in missing teeth, gingival bleeding and deep periodontal pockets, which can harbor bacteria that have been shown to affect the heart.
The Finnish study, out of the University of Helsinki, examined almost 8,500 subjects ages 25 to 75, Researchers recorded the participants’ number of missing teeth at the commencement of the study, and then followed up 13 years later to see incidences of heart disease events such as heart attacks, acute myocardial infarction, diabetes, stroke and death. Participants filled out an in-depth questionnaire and also underwent clinical examination.
In addition to showing that people with missing teeth were at increased risk for cardiovascular events, the study also proved that the number of missing teeth can affect risk rates. Researchers discovered that participants with more than five missing teeth were at increased risk for coronary heart disease and myocardial infarctions, and were more than 140% likely to suffer from such events.
Researcher John Liljestrand additionally reported that those with more than nine missing teeth were 51% more likely to suffer cardiovascular diseases, 31% more likely to develop diabetes and 37% more likely to die. Edentulous subjects were at a 40-68% risk. Interestingly, the study found no association with increased risk of strokes.
Researchers believe that this information proves that the number of missing teeth can help general practitioners when assessing risk factors for chronic diseases.
The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.