Do Untreated Tooth Infections Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?
Your heart and teeth may seem completely unrelated to each other. They have different functions, after all. The heart pumps blood while teeth chew food. What unites them, however, is the cardiovascular system. Though teeth seem hard and dead from the outside, they are living things with blood pumping through them. And in some cases, bacteria may be traveling from untreated tooth infections through the bloodstream to the heart.
Study Suggests Connection Between Tooth Infections and Heart Disease
In 2016, a study examining the connection between dental root tip infections and heart disease was published in the Journal of Dental Research. Root tip infections, also called apical periodontitis, are the result when bacteria infect the dental pulp, which is the spongy, soft portion of the tooth beneath the hard enamel. Untreated cavities, if they go deep enough, can expose the dental pulp and are the most common cause of root tip infection.
The study was carried out by the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases of the University of Helsinki, in cooperation with the Heart and Lung Center at Helsinki University Hospital. 508 participants with a mean age of 62 were assessed for heart and oral health problems. The researchers concluded that those with undetected tooth infections were 2.7 times more likely to have heart disease than those with good oral health.
More Research is Needed
However, the conclusions of other studies are mixed. Many have found that people with poor oral health are more at risk of cardiovascular problems, but researchers have not yet concluded whether this is correlation or causation, or found the exact mechanism linking the two conditions.
It is possible that other factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, and poor access to healthcare actually cause oral and cardiovascular problems that happen to show up in the same people. In other words, an unhealthy lifestyle leads to health problems that may not have any direct connection besides the lifestyle that caused them.
Regardless, whether or not there’s a direct connection between tooth infections and heart disease, it is recommended to maintain and keep a routine check-up schedule for your teeth. Not only are teeth valuable in their functionality and appearance, they actually maintain the shape of your face because they are anchored in the jawbone. When they go missing, that part of the jawbone atrophies. Keep up a good brushing and flossing schedule, and visit Bixby Knolls Dental regularly for checkups.