Trips to Dentist Yield Healthy Heart in Women

Women who go to the dentist have healthier hearts.

That’s according to a new study from University of California, Berkeley researchers, who published their findings online Sept. 29 in the journal Health Economics. The study suggests that women who get dental care reduce their risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular problems by at least one-third.

The analysis did not find a similar benefit for men. Data came from nearly 7,000 people, ages 44-88 enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study.

“Many studies have found associations between dental care and cardiovascular disease, but our study is the first to show that general dental care leads to fewer heart attacks, strokes and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes in a causal way,” said study lead author Timothy Brown, Ph.D., assistant adjunct professor of health policy and management at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

This longitudinal study followed the same individuals over time, and each biennial survey included questions on whether subjects had visited the dentist and whether they had experienced a heart attack, stroke, angina or congestive heart failure during the prior two years. Deaths from heart attacks or strokes were also included in the analysis and the study took into account other risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, high blood pressure and body mass index.

The fact that men and women did not benefit equally from dental care did not completely surprise the researchers.

“We think the findings reflect differences in how men and women develop cardiovascular disease,” said study co-author Stephen Brown, M.D., a first-year

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.