Heart Disease Screening Tooth Fairy

Heart disease risk factors higher in people with tooth loss from gum disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Heart disease is a pretty complex business. So much so, that even adult tooth loss may be linked to heart health. 

The results of a recent study showed that heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking were linked to tooth loss and gum disease.

"Lost several adult teeth? Have your heart checked."

Ola Vedin, MD, from the Department of Medical Sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden, asked over 15,000 high risk patients with coronary heart disease from 39 countries about tooth loss and bleeding gums. Researchers also got data on the patients heart disease risk factors. 

An adult mouth should have 32 teeth (including the four wisdom teeth), but study results showed that around 40 percent of the group had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 percent had no remaining teeth. A quarter of participants reported bleeding gums, which can be a symptom of gum disease.

Patients reported whether they had no teeth, between 1-14 teeth, between 15-19 teeth, between 20-25 teeth or between 26-32 teeth remaining. 

The researchers found that people with fewer remaining teeth had increases in LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), blood pressure, size of the waistline and blood sugar.

For each category of fewer teeth, there was an 11 percent increase in the odds of having diabetes. For example, people with 15 to 19 teeth were 11 percent more likely to have diabetes than people who had 20 to 25 teeth. And people with no teeth were 11 percent more likely to have diabetes than people with one to 14 teeth remaining.

If participants were smokers, they were 39 percent more likely to have bleeding gums than those who never smoked. Former smokers were 21 percent more likely to have bleeding gums than those who never smoked.

The authors said further research should be done to see if tooth loss could be used as a risk marker for heart disease.

“Gum bleeding was less common and associations to cardiovascular risk factors were less evident compared to tooth loss," the authors wrote.

This study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 62nd Annual Scientific Session in March and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

No funding information was made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 17, 2013
Last Updated:
March 20, 2013