Could an undetected infection at the root of a tooth be putting you at risk of heart disease? A Finnish study suggests it may.
“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.
Infection of the root of a tooth is most often caused by tooth decay.
The study included 508 Finnish patients with a mean age of 62 who were experiencing heart symptoms at the time of the study.
The coronary arteries of the patients were examined using angiography, and 36 percent of them were found to be suffering from stable coronary artery disease, 33 percent were undergoing acute coronary syndrome, and 31 percent did not suffer from coronary artery disease to a significant degree.
Their teeth were examined using panoramic tomography of the teeth and jaws. As many as 58 percent were found to be suffering from one or more inflammatory lesions.
The researchers also discovered that dental root tip infections were connected with a high level of serum antibodies related to the bacteria that cause such infections. This shows that oral infections affect other parts of the body as well.
Gum disease, such as periodontitis, is regarded as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and diabetes. Infections of root tips have been studied relatively little in this context, even though they appear to be connected with low-grade inflammation as well.
Cardiovascular diseases cause more than 30 percent of deaths globally. They can be prevented by a healthy diet, weight control, exercise and not smoking. With regard to the health of the heart, measures should be taken to prevent or treat oral infections, as they are very common and often asymptomatic. Root canal treatment of an infected tooth may reduce the risk of heart disease, but the researchers note that more research is needed.