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Study finds relationship between tooth loss, heart disease risk

If you’re losing your teeth, you may want to be extra vigilant in monitoring your cardiovascular health.

According to a report in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a new study shows a progressive association between tooth loss and cardiovascular disease, even among nonsmokers.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 40,000 respondents ages 40-79 surveyed in the 1999-2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

The results concluded that heart disease was present in 4.7 percent of the respondents without tooth loss, 5.7 percent of those missing 1-5 teeth, 7.5 percent missing 6-31 teeth and 8.5 percent with total tooth loss, according to the study’s lead investigator, Catherine Okoro, an epidemiologist in the Division of Adult and Community Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Okoro said that the finding emerged after adjusting for sex, race and ethnicity, education, marital status, diabetes, smoking status, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and body mass index and the correlation between tooth loss and heart disease remained even when smoking was considered.

"Smoking has strong relationships to both tooth loss and heart disease,” Dr. Okoro said. "Nonetheless, when we stratified by age group and smoking status, a significant association remained between tooth loss and heart disease among respondents aged 40 to 59 years who had never smoked."

The researchers reported the results are consistent with previous studies that link periodontal disease and tooth loss to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack.

James Beck, a professor of dental ecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, cautioned not to read too much into the study results saying, "If you believe that the data are reasonable estimates of the cardiovascular and oral status of those interviewed, then you must understand, as the authors point out, that one cannot determine from this study whether people with poor oral status are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. We only know that the two conditions are related to one another."

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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