Tooth Infections Can Directly Increase Your Risks Of Coronary Heart Disease
Has it been a while since you last saw your dentist? No matter how healthy you think your teeth are, it’s probably a good time to book an appointment. Tooth infections have a nasty way of harmlessly hiding away for long periods of time, presenting pain only when they’ve advanced to pretty severe stages.
Regular checkups and X-rays can prevent this, and help keep that beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard to maintain your entire life. Regular checkups don’t just keep your teeth white and your dentist happy; they can help keep your heart strong and healthy as well. That’s because research suggests that those pesky tooth infections create a higher risk for coronary heart disease.
To understand this better, we have to understand a dental condition called apical periodontitis. This is a condition where the root tip of a tooth becomes infected. This causes inflammation of the pulp in the center of a tooth. It is commonly caused by tooth decay. What makes this condition so unique is that pain doesn’t present itself until the infection is well underway. Thus, anyone can suffer from apical periodontitis and not even know it until they get an X-Ray.
How exactly does this relate to heart disease, though? Recent research from the University of Helsinki seems to suggest that there is a correlation between apical periodontitis and an increased risk for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) – an umbrella term for conditions involving blocked blood flow to the coronary arteries.
Coronary Heart Disease and Tooth Decay
Heart disease, and more specifically, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The most common risk factors for heart disease are obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Thanks to recent studies, many prominent researchers suggest that poor dental health should be added to that list.
To get to these findings, researchers monitored a group of 508 individuals with an average age of 62 years old who was experiencing varying degrees of heart problems. After undergoing an angiography (an X-ray of the blood vessels), researchers determined that 36% of patients had stable CAD, 33% had ACS, and 31% had no significant CAD.
After determining each patient’s heart health, researchers then took a look at their teeth and jaws and found that 58% of the patients had some form of apical periodontitis. After analyzing both sets of data, they found that patients with apical periodontitis were more likely to have CAD or ACS. Patients who had untreated apical periodontitis that required a root canal were at a 2.7-times greater risk of developing some form of ACS.
Another discovery from the study suggested that the higher amounts of antibodies associated with common bacteria resulting from apical periodontitis could affect other parts of the body. Poor dental health can cause nasty bacteria that can contribute to poor heart health to flow throughout your body. And because you may not notice any symptoms, it can go untreated for long periods of time. Vigilance is the name of the game.
So, where does that leave you? You may eat well, exercise regularly, not smoke, and receive flying colors from your regular physician and still be at risk of heart disease! The sneaky nature of acute periodontitis means that even if you floss and brush your teeth twice a day, never eat or drink sugar, and use mouthwash religiously, an infection might be hiding away in one of your teeth. This is why you should always, always, ALWAYS schedule regular teeth cleanings and X-rays with your dentist. Your heart health may depend on it!