Although there is no conclusive proof found that gum disease causes heart disease or stroke, there is good news for folks who remain loyal to the recommended annual visit to the dental hygienist.
A recent study from Taiwan suggests that people who routinely get their teeth cleaned (undergo professional tooth scaling) have as much as 24 percent lower risk of heart attacks and 13 percent lower risk of stroke, than those who never actually visit the hygienist. Researchers have also concluded from a similar Swedish study that harmful oral flora is an excellent predictor of heart attack and stroke.
The effects of oral health on overall healthfulness have been the subject of scientific studies for quite some time, and this new research provides added proof that patients who receive regular dental care and follow recommended oral hygiene regimens can successfully reduce their risk of both heart attack and stroke.
The study from Taiwan followed 100,000 participants over a 7-year period, most of whom submitted to professional teeth cleaning at least twice or more in two years; and at least once or less in two years. About half of the adults underwent full or partial tooth scaling while the other half matched with gender and health conditions from the test group but had no tooth scaling. Although researchers did not adjust for potential heart attack and stroke risk factors prior to the study none of the participants reported a history of heart attack or stroke.
Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen, M.D., cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan concluded from the study that protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who received tooth scaling at least once a year. In other words, clinical oral health care—tooth scaling—reduces bacterial growth that can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions.
In a separate study coming from Sweden, researchers discovered that the value of markers for gum disease predict heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke in different ways and in slightly different degrees. Anders Holmlund, D.D.S., Ph.D. Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden, and senior consultant; Specialized Dentistry, studied 7,999 participants with periodontal disease and found people with:
- Fewer than 21 teeth had a 69 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the most teeth.
- A higher number of deepened periodontal pockets (infection of the gum around the base of the tooth) had a 53 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the fewest pockets.
- The least amount of teeth had a 2.5 increased risk of congestive heart failure compared to those with the most teeth.
- The highest incidence of gum bleeding had a 2.1 increased risk of stroke compared to those with the lowest incidence.
These studies highlight the importance of educating patients about oral health to stress the potential impact periodontal disease can have on overall healthfulness. Unfortunately many adults develop some type of periodontal disease due to a lack of daily brushing and flossing, and all too infrequent visits to the dental hygienist. Routine teeth cleaning will help avoid periodontal disease, and ultimately can help to prevent heart attack and stokes.