Tooth loss in middle age is tied to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, independent of traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, poor diet, and diabetes.
This was the conclusion of preliminary research led by Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, LA, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA.
“In addition to other established associations between dental health and risk of disease,” explains study co-author Lu Qi, who is a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University, “our findings suggest that middle-aged adults who have lost two or more teeth in [the] recent past could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”
The analysis looked at three groups: those who had lost no teeth recently; those who had lost one tooth; and those who had lost two or more teeth. The results showed that:
- Of the participants who had 25–32 natural teeth at baseline, those who reported the recent loss of two or more teeth had a 23 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared with counterparts who had not lost any.
- The raised risk was independent of quality of diet, amount of physical activity, body weight, and other traditional risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
- No significant increase in risk was found for those participants who said that they had only lost one tooth.
- Compared with those who reported losing no teeth, the participants who reported losing two or more teeth — regardless of how many natural teeth they had at baseline — had a 16 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- Those with fewer than 17 natural teeth at baseline had a 25 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who had 25–32 natural teeth at baseline.
The scientists conclude that their results suggest “that among middle-aged adults, a higher number of teeth lost in the recent past may be associated with subsequent risk of [coronary heart disease], independent of the baseline number of natural teeth and traditional risk factors.”
They acknowledge that the findings are limited by the fact that they had to rely on the participants’ own reports of tooth loss, which could have resulted in some of them ending up in the wrong groups in the analysis.
“Previous research has also found that dental health issues are associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. However, most of that research looked at cumulative tooth loss over a lifetime, which often includes teeth lost in childhood due to cavities, trauma, and orthodontics.”