Most people understand the importance of keeping their heart healthy, but some individuals may not realize what their dental care routine has to do with their cardiovascular heath. Numerous studies have associated cardiovascular well-being with dental health, and more keep rolling out on a regular basis. For example, researchers from the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden recently found that the number of teeth a person has seems to directly correlate with his or her heart health, especially if they already experience cardiovascular problems.
The study involved more than 15,800 participants from 39 different countries, and offers further evidence that when it comes to teeth, it's best for people to try and keep their natural ones for as long as possible.
More teeth, less problems
Individuals in the study already had coronary heart disease and were participating in the ongoing STABILITY study, a global clinical trial evaluating an anti-atherosclerosis drug. The researchers questioned the individuals about then number of teeth they had, putting them into different categories - none, one to 14, 15 to 19, 20 to 25 or 26 to 32 - as well as how often their gums bleed while brushing. They were also questioned about their health and habits such as whether they smoked, had diabetes or what level of education they obtained - all of which are issues associated with heart disease.
They discovered that 40 percent of study participants had 15 or fewer teeth, 16 percent had none and 25 percent experienced bleeding gums on a regular basis. The scientists found that the lower the number of teeth a person had, the more likely he or she was to have a high level of Lp-PLA2 in his or her system. This is an enzyme that is no friend to the body - it encourages hardening of the arteries, high blood sugar, cholesterol and waist circumference, as well increased inflammation. Furthermore, for each decrease the category of the number of teeth a person had, he or she had an 11 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.
However, exactly what these findings mean remain unclear.
"Whether periodontal disease actually causes coronary heart disease remains to be shown. It could be that the two conditions share common risk factors independently," said researcher Ola Vedin, M.D., in a statement. "Those who believe that a causal relationship exists propose several theories, including systemic inflammation, the presence of bacteria in the blood from infected teeth and bacteria invading coronary plaques."
Regardless of what further research finds, it can't hurt for people to take these findings as greater reason to take proper care of their teeth.
More reasons to brush
While these findings suggest that missing teeth may increase the risk of heart disease, there are other problems associated with having a less-than-full set of chompers. According to the Academy of Osseointegration, when teeth are missing from the jaw the bone that supported them tends to shrink. If left untreated, then this can make it difficult for people to wear dentures, which can leave them struggling to eat and even speak properly.
Furthermore, in this though job market no one should be searching for a new career with missing teeth, since this may show that a person does not practice proper hygiene habits.
People who want to keep their natural teeth should brush twice a day, floss at least once and visit the dentist twice a year. Also, those who have already lost teeth should look into the various options for replacing them, such as dentures and implants, which may help prevent bone loss.
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