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You're never too old to visit the dentist

Elderly people with active root caries - decay at the roots of the teeth - show an increased risk for having irregular heartbeats, also called cardiac arrhythmias, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers discovered that having three or more active root caries doubled the odds of developing cardiac arrhythmias. Because arrhythmias can signal other possible undiagnosed diseases, the study's outcome emphasizes the importance of elderly people taking dental disease seriously.

"The findings make a strong case for the active assessment of and attention to oral problems for the older community-dwelling population," said Dr. Poul Holm-Pederson, lead author of the study. Dr. Holm-Pederson is professor and director of the Gerontological Oral Health Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Prevalence and risk factors associated with root caries aren't completely understood. But longer tooth retention by an aging population is increasing researchers' interest.

In the small number of completed studies, scientists have observed that only 30-40 percent of individuals within a study group bare the entire burden of root caries attacks.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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