Our bodies are extremely complex systems, where everything is interconnected. Damaging one part of it may have a tremendous effect on another. For example, an infection of the root tip of a tooth increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Now a new study from the University of Helsinki showed that this infection can even be symptomless and can still have a negative effect on the health of the heart.
These symptomless dental root tip infections, called apical periodontitis, are quite common and are usually discovered by accident. They are defined as immune reaction to microbial infection in the dental pulp, usually caused by caries. These days, scientists notice that many oral infections increase the risk to get many common chronic diseases. John Liljestrand, researcher of this new study, said: “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”.
There are more examples as well, such as periodontitis being related to coronary artery disease and diabetes. Dental root tip infections have been researched less, which is why they were selected for this new study. This new research included 508 Finnish patients of heart diseases with a mean age of 62 years.
At first, scientists addressed their health using angiography and found that 36% were suffering from stable coronary artery disease, 33% from acute coronary syndrome, while 31% of the participants did not have coronary artery disease. Scientists also checked their dental health and found that even 58% of the participants had one or more inflammatory lesions. Researchers took into account other factors, such as age, gender, smoking, type 2 diabetes, body mass index, periodontitis and the number of teeth, and confirmed that hidden infection of the root tip of a tooth increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
These findings are very significant, having in mind how many deaths does the cardiovascular diseases cause globally. Even 30% of deaths are attributed to these diseases. There are many ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases – healthy diet, physical activity, weight control, not smoking and so on. Good oral health should be added to this list and people should consider it a bigger priority.
This research proves that even without knowing me may be living with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Symptomless dental root tip infections are hard to detect at home, but frequent visits to the dentists do help. Results of this research will improve the guidelines and overall information that doctors are providing to the patients during consultations.