Professional Teeth Cleaning Could Lower the Risk of Suffering from a Heart Attack or Stroke

Published:December 22nd, 2011

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It’s often tempting to ignore the reminder from the dentists to schedule an appointment for professional teeth cleaning, but read on to find out why you shouldn’t. Two new studies were recently presented at the American Hard Associations Scientific Sessions in Florida showing the link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease.

The first study took place in Taiwan over a period of seven years. Dr Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen and Dr Hsin-Bang Leu, from the cardiology department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital analysed data on more than 100,000 adults, half of whom had their teeth professionally cleaned by either their dentist or hygienist at least once compared to the other half who hadn’t ever attended their dentist for a professional cleaning. None of the participants had any history of strokes or heart attacks.

The data showed those people whose teeth were professionally cleaned regularly had a 24% lower risk on average of suffering from a heart attack, and a 13% lower risk on average of suffering from a stroke, compared to those people who didn’t have their teeth professionally cleaned. When analysing the data, professional cleaning was considered to be fairly regular provided it occurred at least twice within two years, but was considered to be occasional if it occurred once or less during this period. While these results can be considered significant, they didn’t take into account various information such as other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including whether or not the participant smoked. This was because the data wasn’t available in the health records, but the sheer size and length of the study sample makes the results difficult to ignore.

The second study was conducted in Sweden and concentrated on whether or not the type of periodontal disease could predict the degree of risk for suffering from strokes and cardiovascular disease. During this study, Dr Lars from the Department of Acute Medicine at Uppsala Academic Hospital and Dr Anders Holmlund from the Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gsvleborg, and senior consultant, Specialized Dentistry, looked at the data of nearly 8,000 people who were classified as having some degree of periodontal disease.

The results seem to show that type of gum disease can help predict the risk for strokes, heart attacks and congestive heart failure. They found participants who had fewer than 21 teeth still remaining had a 69% higher risk of suffering a heart attack compared to participants who still had the majority of their teeth. Patients with only a few remaining teeth were found to be 2.5 times more likely to suffer from congestive heart failure compared to the group with the most teeth. People suffering from the highest incidence of bleeding gums were found to be 2.1 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than those whose gums were bleeding very little.

The researchers also took into account the depth of the periodontal pockets and found those patients whose pockets were deepest had a 53% higher risk of suffering from a heart attack compared to patients with less pronounced pockets. Periodontal pockets are created as periodontal disease or gum disease is relatively well advanced, as the condition causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating the pockets which fill up with infection. Dental hygienists measure these pockets as one way of estimating how far the disease has progressed.

The evidence is mounting up, and if you want a healthy heart it’s best to look after your teeth and gums.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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