Heart Disease Risk & Dental Health
A new study shows a surprising link between dental health and heart disease. Individuals with gum disease and cavities when they are kids have a significantly higher risk of heart disease as adults.
Once researchers split the volunteers by gender, they found that boys appear to suffer more from this effect than girls. In fact, girls do not show any significant relationship.
Boys on the other hand have a 69% higher risk of developing thickened arteries if they had gum disease as kids. They have a 46% risk of developing thickened arteries as adults if they had cavities as kids.
Correlation does not imply causation
Intima Media Thickness
While heart attacks and strokes affect different organs, they have similar underlying causes. Atherosclerosis, the medical condition where your arteries become thickened and hardened, increases the width of the walls of your arteries.
Thickened artery walls decreases the width of the channel of arteries, the lumen, and increases the risk that a blood clot can cause a clog.
Intima Media Thickness refers to the thickness of the carotid artery walls, the arteries running to your head. This test estimates the extent of atherosclerosis in a patient, and their risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Link Between Blood Pressure and Dental Health
A similar effect was seen for blood pressure. Individuals with more symptoms of oral cavity infections as kids, including gum bleeding and vacities, had a higher risk of higher blood pressure as adults. On average, volunteers without any dental symptoms as a kid had a systolic blood presusre of 114 as adults. Meanwhile, kids who had 2 symptoms had an average systolic blood pressure of 120 as adults.
Related: Emotional Stress and Heart Disease
Another surprising risk factor for heart disease was found in emotional stress. Stressful life events harm the mind and the body.
New research shows significantly higher risks of heart attack and stroke after psyciatric diagnoses from stressful life events. PTSD was the most damaging stress-related disorder.
Related: Cavities and Income
Unfortunately, most of the improvements in dental health have not been equally distributed. Over the last 20 years, improvements in dental health have been concentrated in wealthy families. Research has shown that water fluoridation can reduce much of this disparity.
This study shows a significant link between dental health and heart health. While we don't know whether cavities directly cause heart disease, we do know that kids who had taken better care of their teeth had better health as adults.
This study, along with several others, have shown that dental health and general health are intimately connected. Taking good care of your teeth isn't just important for keeping your dentist happy, it may also help ensure a long healthy life.