Further Evidence Links Oral and Heart Health

***UPDATED: February 28, 2014*** Further studies into the relationship between heart and oral health have discovered that the common practice of removing infected teeth prior to cardiac surgery may cause an increase in the risk of major adverse outcomes, according to a recent Science Daily article.  In order to avoid infection during or after surgery, it is common to remove any abscessed or infected teeth, but the practice may be curbed with these new findings.  A team of cardiac surgeons and anesthesiologists evaluated the occurrence of “major adverse outcomes” in 205 patients who had dental extractions prior to scheduled cardiac surgery between the years 2003 and 2013.  According to the current guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, dental extraction is a minor procedure with the risk of death or non-fatal heart attack estimated to be less than 1%.  The results of the study suggest that these guidelines need reviewing, as 8% of participants experienced a major adverse outcome, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure, while3% of patients died after dental extraction and before the planned surgery.

Further evidence has been found that supports the suggested link between oral health and heart disease-related risk factors.  For years, scientists have been making links between diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking with poor oral hygiene and tooth loss, however the specific connection remains difficult to pin down.  No one can say whether poor oral health causes chronic heart conditions or vice versa, but with another study identifying an additional relationship, it’s difficult not to believe that both conditions are intertwined.

According to a recent WebMD News article, the latest research was conducted using nearly 16,000 participants in 39 different countries around the world.  Subjects provided information regarding the number of natural teeth they have and the frequency in which they experience bleeding of the gums.  Approximately 40% of participants had less than 15 teeth remaining, with 16% having none.  25% of subjects reported gum bleeds.  Scientists found that with every decrease in number of teeth there was an increase in the level of enzymes that promote inflammation and hardening of arteries.  Additionally, a similar relationship was found in that fewer teeth carried a higher occurrence of heart disease risk markers, such as “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, and higher blood sugar, blood pressure, and waist size.  Gum bleeds were associated with the same risk markers.  Also, the risk for diabetes increased approximately 11% for every significant decrease in the number of teeth, and those who smoke or were former smokers experienced higher rates of tooth loss.  Although scientists fully admit that the relationship between oral health and heart disease is still unclear, with data such as this, it’s very difficult to deny that some relationship does indeed exist.

Preventative health care remains the most effective method of avoiding both heart and oral disease.  Consuming a healthy diet, participating in a regular exercise regiment, and regular visits to the doctor and dentist go a long way in significantly decreasing your risk for the above mentioned chronic symptoms.  Research will continue to be completed in order to further understand this critical connection, but don’t allow the unknown to keep you from reaching your health potential.  Clearly, if you take care of your body, your body will likely take care of you.  It’s just that simple.

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