There was a new warning in the news today about the link between gum disease and heart disease. The link between gum disease and heart disease was discovered a few years ago, but many people are still unaware of the dangers of not brushing their teeth.
The general opinion is that not brushing your teeth will at worse cause tooth decay and many people seem to be willing to take that risk. However, gum disease can spread and cause heart disease. Although there are other more important factors at play, such as poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise, a build up of bacteria on the gums does also lead to increased risk of heart disease.
The results of a recent Scottish study were published in the British Medical Journal. The research was carried out by Prof. Richard Watt from University College London.
The study looked at various lifestyle factors from a group of 11,869 men and women with an average age of 50 years. It found that poor oral hygiene led to a 70% increase in the risk of developing CHD (coronary heart disease). People with the worse oral hygiene also had proteins in their blood which are linked with inflammation, a major problem associated with heart disease.
The Conclusions of the Research
Our results confirmed and further strengthened the suggestedassociation between oral hygiene and the risk of cardiovasculardisease. Furthermore, inflammatory markers were significantlyassociated with poor oral health behaviour. Future experimentalstudies will be needed to confirm whether the observed associationbetween oral health behaviour and cardiovascular disease isin fact causal or merely a risk marker. Nevertheless, use ofa simple one item measure of self reported toothbrushing couldbe a useful and cost effective marker of future health riskin large scale population studies.
Given the high prevalence of oral infections in the population,doctors should be alert to the possible oral source of an increasedinflammatory burden. In addition, educating patients in improvingpersonal oral hygiene is beneficial to their oral health regardlessof the relation with systemic disease.
However, the British Dental Association and the British Heart Foundation have both pointed out that generally poor hygiene is associated with people that also have a poor diet and are inactive. The connection is not solid at the moment, but brushing your teeth twice a day is still one simple way to stay healthy.
- Toothbrushing, inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular disease: results from Scottish Health Survey. By Cesar de Oliveira, research fellow in epidemiology and public health, Richard Watt, professor and honorary consultant in dental public health, Mark Hamer, senior research fellow in epidemiology and public health. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London WC1E 6BT. Correspondence to: R Watt [email protected].
- Wu T, Trevisan M, Genco RJ, Falkner KL, Dorn JP, Sempos CT. Examination of the relation between periodontal health status and cardiovascular risk factors: serum total and high density lipoprotein cholesterol, C-reactive protein, and plasma fibrinogen. Am J Epidemiol 2000;151:273-82