A large cohort study out of Finland has given us another reason to keep our smiles whole and healthy: Missing teeth are associated with a whole host of health problems.
In this study, whose findings were published in the Journal of Dental Research, researchers found that having five or more missing teeth was associated with a significant increase in risk for incident coronary artery disease and heart attack. Having nine or more missing teeth was associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even death.
The study authors concluded:
“Even a few missing teeth may indicate an increased risk of CVD, diabetes, or all-cause mortality. When individual risk factors for chronic diseases are assessed, the number of missing teeth could be a useful additional indicator for general medical practitioners.”
Periodontal disease is one of the primary reasons for tooth loss, and as we know periodontal disease and the pathogenic bacteria that cause it are being increasingly associated with systemic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease, pregnancy complications, and cancer.
A 2005 study found that the top nine risk factors for losing teeth to periodontal disease are as follows:
Being older than 35
Never getting professional dental care
Never using a toothbrush
Smoking (current or past)
Having high blood pressure
Having rheumatoid arthritis
It’s no surprise that individuals whose periodontal disease is so severe that they lose multiple teeth would experience significantly higher risk for some of these diseases as well. The presence of systemic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can exacerbate oral health problems due to their inflammatory nature.
With the combination of professional dental care and advanced home care, annual medical costs are significantly lowered for most chronic diseases. And it appears that through increased awareness, early detection, and effective pathogen-directed treatment, the dental team can help save lives as well as teeth.