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Your smile & heart

Poor scores in five different areas of oral health may serve as a red flag for heart disease risk.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 23, 2004 17:02 IST

A new research has shown that poor scores in five different areas of oral health may serve as a red flag for heart disease risk.

The study has revealed that poor oral health was a stronger predictor of heart disease than other commonly used risk factors, such as low HDL "good" cholesterol, high levels of a clotting factor called fibrinogen, and high triglycerides (a type of fat).

Researchers say if future studies confirm these results, a dental exam may help identify people at risk for heart attack or stroke who do not yet have symptoms of heart disease.

In the study, which appears in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers used five types of oral diseases to create a general rating of oral health, called the asymptomatic dental score (ADS). These include, pericoronitis - an infection around the third molar, gingivitis -gum inflammation, root remnants - when teeth are decayed to the point that only the tip of the root remains, missing teeth and cavities.

"Oral infections are thought to produce inflammation that might be associated with coronary heart disease, so we examined all oral pathologies that might generate inflammation," said researcher Sok-Ja Janket, assistant professor at Boston University School of Dental Medicine.

Researchers used a mathematical model to determine the strength of each disease's association with heart disease in 256 Finnish adults with heart disease and a group of 250 similar adults without heart disease. They then weighted each disease's contribution and came up with the ADS.

Of the five diseases, the strongest predictor of heart disease was pericoronitis, followed by root remnants, gingivitis, cavities, and missing teeth.

When researchers compared the ADS with other known indicators of heart disease risk, they found the oral health score was a stronger predictor of risk than several well-studied factors, including some types of inflammatory markers for heart disease and cholesterol levels.

First Published: Feb 23, 2004 14:13 IST