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Poor oral health linked to increased risk of heart attack


Poor dental and gum health may be an important risk factor for heart disease.

Inflammation of the gum surrounding the teeth (known as periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, a recent study published in Circulation has suggested. The article publishes the results of a case-control study of 805 patients in Sweden who presented to hospital with their first heart attack. The researchers assessed the degree of periodontal disease in these patients and compared this to a control group matched in postcode, age and gender. It found that those with periodontal disease were 1.3 times more likely to have heart disease than those without. Although the study statistically accounts for the potential biases that may affect the validity of the results such as periodontal disease being more common in those who smoke ( a well known risk factor for heart disease), the results of any case-control study should be interpreted with a degree of caution.


A large body of evidence supports the view that cardiovascular disease is an inflammatory-based condition in which plaques made of cholesterol and inflammatory cells line the arteries in the body, leading to blockage and subsequent heart attack.

The study supports the idea that chronic inflammation at a distant site (in this case, the gums) may promote a generalised pro-inflammatory state that predisposes people to the development of atherosclerotic plaques. While the study does not definitely prove or disprove this, it does suggest a greater role for improved oral health in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.



Rydén, L., Buhlin, K., Ekstrand, E., de Faire, U., Gustafsson, A., Holmer, J., Kjellström, B., Lindahl, B., Norhammar, A., Nygren, Å., Näsman, P., Rathnayake, N., Svenungsson, E. and Klinge, B. (2016). Periodontitis Increases the Risk of a First Myocardial Infarction: A Report From the PAROKRANK Study. Circulation, pp.CIRCULATIONAHA.115.020324.

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