Losing our baby teeth is a sign that we’re becoming adults. But when teeth start to fall out in the later stages of life, it isn’t such a joyous occasion. In fact, it could be indicative of a serious medical condition. Previous studies have shown the connection between dental hygiene and cardiac health, but new research shows that tooth loss in middle-aged adults can lead to increased risk of heart disease. Previous studies have shown the connection between dental hygiene and cardiac health.
A new study, performed by researchers from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, analyzed the data from several large studies surrounding tooth loss. The participants were aged between 45 and 69 years of age. They did not have cardiac disease at the beginning of the study and had reported recent tooth loss. The researchers examined when tooth loss occurred over an eight-year period. Then they tracked the development of cardiac disease among patients who had lost none, one, or more teeth in a period of 12 to 18 years.
The number of teeth participants started the experiment with affected their risk of cardiac disease. For those starting with 25 to 32 teeth, the adults who had lost two or more teeth showed a 23 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Adults with less than 17 teeth at the start of the experiment saw a 25 percent increased risk of cardiac disease. When the results were adjusted for number of teeth at the start of the study, all participants showed a 16 percent increased risk of developing cardiac disease compared to those who lost no teeth.
The increased risk was seen despite diet quality, physical activity, body weight, and other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The participants who had lost no teeth or only one tooth showed no increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
“In addition to other established associations between dental health and risk of disease, our findings suggest that middle-aged adults who have lost two or more teeth in recent past could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” said Lu Qi, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans. “That’s regardless of the number of natural teeth a person has as a middle-aged adult, or whether they have traditional risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as poor diet or high blood pressure.”
The researchers volunteered that since the loss of teeth was self-reported by the participants, it was a potential limitation to the validity of the results of the experiment. There is potential for the results to be inaccurate if the participants had provided false information. The researchers of the study advise readers to be aware of the increased risk of cardiac disease that can be indicated by losing two or more teeth after reaching middle age. Qi said that adults should look out for the risks early on and take steps to prevent their development.