If You Notice This in Your Mouth, Your Heart Disease Risk Is Higher
A quick at-home check can help you figure out if your heart health is in danger.
There's no denying that heart disease should be a concern all Americans consider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease causes about 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S., making it the country's No. 1 killer. But based on the portrayals of sudden chest-clutching and collapsing we often see on TV and in movies, it's easy to feel like a cardiac event is something that can strike anyone at anytime without warning. However, knowing whether or not you're at a heightened risk for heart disease doesn't have to be a mystery—and it also doesn't necessarily require several trips to the doctor for various tests and screenings (though those are always a good idea). Research shows that a quick self-check of your mouth can help you identify whether your heart disease risk is high. Read on to find out what to look for.
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If you are missing teeth, your heart disease risk is higher.
A 2019 study presented at the American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference analyzed the risk of heart disease in adults who have lost teeth due to non-traumatic reasons. The researchers observed data on more than 316,500 people from the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 79. The researchers found that 13 percent of all the patients studied had cardiovascular disease, but those who reported having at lease one tooth missing had a higher risk.
According to a statement that accompanied the research, the authors found that those who reported having at least one missing tooth, but still had some teeth, were "more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, even after adjusting for other factors such as body mass index, age, race, alcohol consumption, smoking, diabetes, and dental visits."
The risk of developing heart disease is highest among those missing all teeth.
If you are missing all your teeth for non-traumatic reasons, then you have the highest risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that 8 percent of the study participants were edentulous, meaning they had no teeth. The percentage of those who were edentulous and had cardiovascular disease was 28 percent, while 7 percent of the participants with no missing teeth developed cardiovascular disease.
"Our results support that there is a relationship between dental health and cardiovascular health," Hamad Mohammed Qabha, MBBS, the lead author of the study and chief medical and surgical intern at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, said in a statement. "If a person's teeth fall out, there may be other underlying health concerns. Clinicians should be recommending that people in this age group receive adequate oral health care to prevent the diseases that lead to tooth loss in the first place and as potentially another way of reducing risk of future cardiovascular disease."
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Experts say there is a connection between missing teeth and inflammation that causes heart disease.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), tooth loss can occur because of an advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis. The ADA says that researchers suspect that bacteria and inflammation linked to periodontitis may increase one's risk of heart disease.
"Several studies link chronic inflammation from periodontitis with the development of cardiovascular problems. Some evidence suggests that oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and stroke," the ADA explains.
Inflammation of any kind has steadily been linked to heart disease, but inflammation in your mouth specifically is a risk, as your mouth is one of only a few parts of your body connected to the outside world. Once you have a buildup of oral bacteria, it can get into your bloodstream, where it can travel anywhere throughout your body. Researchers believe that once the bacteria gets to your heart, it can trigger inflammation in the heart's vessels and can also infect heart valves, according to Penn Medicine.
One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is to prevent gum disease.
The ADA says that "given the potential link between periodontitis and systematic health problems," one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease is by preventing gum disease. Step 1 when it comes to your oral hygiene is simply brushing your teeth twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with floss once a day.
But, even if you are doing both of those things on the daily, you should still be on the lookout for problems with your oral health, as you may not be cleaning thoroughly enough. Other symptoms of gum disease include persistent bad breath; gums that bleed during brushing and flossing; red, swollen, tender gums; pus between your teeth and gums; gums that have pulled away from your teeth; loose or separating teeth; and changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite, per the ADA.
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