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Poor dental health can damage your heart: Dutch researcher

A Dutch researcher has established a link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease.

People with severe periodontal disease are 60 percent more likely have heart problems, according to results published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

It’s the first time such a large-scale epidemiological study was conducted in the Netherlands to examine the possible association between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease.

Similar studies have been done in other countries previously, but researchers wanted to find out whether the same conclusions could be drawn for patients in the Dutch healthcare system.

60.000 patients

Nicky Beukers, dentist and periodontist at the Academisch Centrum voor Tandheelkunde in Amsterdam (ACTA), based her research on the data of more than 60.000 ACTA patients.

By analysing their medical history and treatments for periodontal disease, Beukers concluded that a patient is 60 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular disease when they also have periodontitis.

This holds true even when taking other factors into account such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Causal link

While the study established a connection between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease, the causal link is not clear, however.

Beukers will conduct a follow-up study to determine which appeared first in patients, the periodontal disease or the cardiovascular problems.

The results of that research should give an indication of whether periodontitis is a cause for heart disease.

Periodontal disease as risk factor

Studies in other countries have also not established a clear causal link yet.

One theory is that when a person has severely infected gums that those bacteria can spread through the body while eating and swallowing. These bacteria appear to increase the onset of arteriosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries.

Dentists say that the best way to avoid plaque, gingivitis and periodontal disease is by flossing at least once a day.

Treatment for periodontitis is not covered by the basic Dutch health insurance, it requires additional dental coverage in the Netherlands or paying out of pocket.

Thomas

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Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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