Research from Austria has confirmed that dental caries are specifically linked with atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries – a major component of most heart diseases.
The researchers – from Austria's Innsbruck Medical University – utilized computed tomography along with standard dental instrumentation to analyze 292 patients – 137 women and 155 men. The patients had an average age of 54 years old.
The researchers counted the number of cavities and decaying teeth surfaces among the patients. They also measured their progression of gingivitis and periodontal disease – gum disease – in addition to measuring the amount of jaw bone loss.
Jaw bone loss is linked specifically to periodontal disease because bacteria that infect the gums and their waste products destroy bone material the roots of the teeth.
Using a calculation method called logistical regression, it was determined that those patients with less than one tooth cavity had significantly less incidence of atherosclerosis compared to those patients with multiple dental caries.
The researchers also determined that those with greater levels of periodontitis and a greater incidence of atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries – compared to those with lower levels of periodontitis or none at all.
These factors were multiplied by the age of the patient. The older the patient, the greater the atherosclerosis, but again this was also related to the number of dental caries and restorations that patient had.
The researchers concluded:
"Dental caries, pulpal caries, and chronic apical periodontitis are associated positively, while restorations are associated inversely, with aortic atherosclerotic burden."
When pathogenic bacteria leak their waste into the bloodstream, this damages the walls of the blood vessels. This blood vessel wall damage - along with the polluting of the bloodstream - produces the scarring and plaque formation referred to as atherosclerosis.
The buildup of plaque on the walls of the blood vessels gradually clogs the arteries. Pieces of plaque can also break off and block the smaller blood vessels that feed the heart muscles. This can cause a heart attack. When pieces of plaque break off and clog the blood vessels in or leading to the brain this can cause a stroke.
Glodny B, Nasseri P, Crismani A, Schoenherr E, Luger AK, Bertl K, Petersen J. The occurrence of dental caries is associated with atherosclerosis. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2013 Jul;68(7):946-53.
Adams C. Oral Probiotics: Fighting Tooth Decay, Periodontal Disease and Airway Infections Using Nature's Friendly Bacteria. Logical Books, 2011.