Heart Disease Patients Often Have Poor Dental Health

Dental disease common among heart disease patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People with heart disease often have to pay very close attention to their health. It's possible that even dental health is closely associated with heart disease.

A recent study found that signs of dental disease, such as tooth loss and gum bleeding, were extremely common among coronary heart disease patients around the world.

The researchers suggested that self-reported dental health could potentially help predict the risk of heart disease.

"Discuss dental health with your cardiologist."

The lead author of this study was Ola Vedin, MD, from the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The study included 15,828 adults from 39 countries around the world with chronic coronary heart disease.

Of the participants, 81 percent  were men and 78 percent were white. 

The participants' average age was 65 years old, and 70 percent were current or former smokers.

Each participant had at least one additional risk factor of coronary heart disease, such as:

  • aged 60 years or older
  • drug-treated diabetes
  • low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ('good' cholesterol)
  • current or previous smoker (five or more cigarettes per day)
  • significant kidney dysfunction

The researchers looked at each participant's medical history, took blood samples, and conducted a physical examination.

The participants then filled out a lifestyle questionnaire on demographics (age, sex, race, etc.), dental health, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity and stress levels relating to work, home and money.

Lastly, the participants reported how many teeth they had left and if their gums ever bled when they brushed their teeth.

The findings showed that 41 percent of the participants had less than 15 teeth remaining, 16 percent had none at all, and 26 percent reported gum bleeding during teeth brushing.

The prevalence of gum bleeding and tooth loss significantly varied according to geographical location, with the countries, regions and ethnic groups from Eastern Europe showing the highest rate of both gum bleeding and tooth loss.

The researchers found that tooth loss was associated with higher blood sugar levels, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ('bad' cholesterol) levels, blood pressure, and waist size, and lower socioeconomic status.

The participants with more remaining teeth were less likely to have diabetes and be a smoker, and more likely to have high levels of education, work stress and alcohol consumption compared to the participants with less or no remaining teeth.

The findings revealed that more gum bleeding was associated with higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Age and smoking were determined to be significant risk factors for both dental disease and heart disease.

Dr. Vedin and team suggested that there are common risk factors between dental disease and coronary heart disease, and questioned the possibility of using self-reported dental health as a potential indicator of heart disease risk.

However, he maintained that, "It is still a matter of debate whether [dental] disease is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. Some studies point to a moderate association while others are contradictory. Our findings show an association between self-reported [dental] disease and several [heart disease] risk factors and as such lend support to a possible association between the conditions."

The researchers noted that extreme dental hygiene should not be considered a preventive measure for the heart disease.

A few study limitations were mentioned.

First, the researchers could not confirm cases of dental disease. Second, the specific level of gum bleeding was not considered, as the participants were asked if their gums ever bled or not. Third, there may have been other factors associated with geographical region that were not considered.

This study was published on April 10 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

GlaxoSmithKline provided funding.

Review Date: 
April 12, 2014
Last Updated:
April 14, 2014