In-depth study links heart problems with gum disease

The British Dental Health Foundation has warned that young people must take care of their teeth if they are to avoid heart problems in later life.

The warning comes after an in-depth UK health study, published in the medical journal, Heart, found that young adults who lose their teeth to decay or gum disease are considerably more likely to die from heart disease in later life.

The study, led by Dr Yu-Kang Tu of the University of Leeds, followed more than 12,000 UK adults for up to 57 years, and revealed that those with a large number of missing teeth in young adulthood were one third more likely to die of heart disease than those with fewer teeth missing.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: ‘The Foundation has long held the view that a person’s oral health has a major effect on the rest of the body and there is mounting evidence to support that view.

‘People need to adopt a good oral healthcare routine for the good of their whole body as well as their mouth and that should include twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down how often they have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as the dentist recommends. Cleaning between the teeth is also important and should be done once-a-day using floss or inter-dental brushes.’

The findings of the study are based on 12,631 men and women who had medical and dental exams as college students in the 1940s through 1960s. They were then traced through the UK National Health Service until 2005, during which time 1,432 died.

Scientists believe that the bacteria in the mouth that causes tooth decay and gum disease may enter the bloodstream and damage the blood vessel lining, or trigger inflammation in the body which leads to heart disease.

Dr Carter added: ‘A common problem is that many people only consider the aesthetic importance of good oral healthcare and as a result, if they are not overly concerned with the appearance of their smile, they may let their oral healthcare slide.

‘However, as this study shows, failing to take care of your teeth from a young age can lead to far bigger problems later in life. Anyone who is concerned about their oral health should ask their dentist for advice, while being careful to maintain a good oral healthcare routine on a day-to-day basis.’

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