dental x-ray

Tooth Infections, Even Hidden Ones, May Affect Your Heart

dental x-rayAccording to a recent study out of the University of Helsinki, an infection at the root tip of a tooth increases your risk of coronary artery disease – even if you have no symptoms.

And many people with that kind of infection – known as an abscess – don’t.

When tooth trauma affects a tooth, either from an accident, gum disease or decay, a tooth can enter a dying phase. Some will experience discomfort and swelling. This is because the infection is brewing and looking for an outlet. But for others, the infection may cause a bit of discomfort and then disappear. This doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. It may mean it’s found an outlet where the infection can drain, releasing the building pressure that can cause more intense symptoms.

Whether your tooth infection is silent, or not, the infection will not only dissolve healthy bone in the area of the infection. As this new study shows, it can affect your overall health in serious ways.

For the study, 508 older Finnish patients with heart symptoms underwent coronary angiography and an extensive oral examination, including x-rays. The researchers found that 36% had stable coronary artery disease and 33% had acute coronary syndrome. The remaining 31% showed no significant degree of coronary artery disease.

Dentally, as many as 58% of participants were found to have at least one inflammatory lesion.

After segregating serum antibodies from blood, researchers discovered that the dental root tip infections were associated with a high level of serum antibodies related to common bacteria causing such infections. They concluded these oral infections were affecting other parts of the body as well.

“Acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more common among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment than among patients without this issue,” says researcher John Liljestrand.

While the study goes on to indicate that root canal treatment may reduce the risk of heart disease, it also states more research must be done. But from a biological point of view, root canal treated teeth are themselves a risk factor for deeper infection. While ozone and sustained vigilance may help prevent such problems, the fact that the risk is there means that you should weigh your options carefully so you can make an informed decision when root canal therapy is presented as an option.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the US. Approximately, 610,000 people die of heart disease every year. Of those deaths, 370,000 are attributed to coronary heart disease, which was the specific focus of this study.

While these numbers are alarming, heart disease can be prevented with a healthy diet, weight control, exercise, and not smoking. The current study reiterates the need for diligence in maintaining your oral health, too.

We couldn’t agree more!

Image by westerndave, via Flickr