Gum Disease: Increased Risk for Heart Attacks, Mouth Cancer

Loss of teeth and bleeding gums are associated with increased risk for heart attacks (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, published online Apr 10, 2014). The patients who retained more of their teeth had significantly lower risk factors for heart attacks: lower fasting sugar, bad LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, waist circumference, white blood cell count and markers for inflammation. They also had better kidney function and were less likely to have diabetes. People who have bleeding gums have higher levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and higher systolic blood pressure. This does not prove that gum disease causes heart attacks. The same things that cause heart attacks can also cause gum disease. For example, tobacco causes both heart attacks and gum disease.

A report from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology and Glasgow University’s Dental School shows that people who have gum disease are at increased risk for cancers of the mouth and throat (Oral Oncology, April 2014). Poor oral hygiene could cause cancer by being associated with certain infections such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted virus that is known to cause cancer all over the body and is the exclusive cause of cancer of the cervix. Poor oral hygiene is associated with increased cancer risk even if HPV is not found in the cancer. Smokers are at increased risk for gum and teeth damage, and smoking is a well-known cause of mouth cancer.

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