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According to researchers, losing teeth and suffering gum disease long-term could increase the risk of serious health problems, such as cardiovascular complications, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Previous research into the area found that poor dental hygiene could allow up to 700 different types of bacteria to get into the bloodstream, increasing the dangers of heart problems – regardless of the person’s general health and fitness.
The study, which was carried out at Uppsala University, Sweden, included participants from 39 countries, who were asked to classify their number of teeth (from none up to 32) and the frequency of gum bleeds (from never to always). Around 40% of patients had fewer than fifteen teeth and 16% had none at all, with a quarter of respondents reporting bleeding gums. As the number of teeth dropped, the risk markers for cardiac problems increased; researchers found that this was because of a rise in the levels of an enzyme that causes inflammation in the blood vessels and hardening of the arteries.
However, at this stage there is not much data on how periodontal disease affects heart health – according to Professor Robin Seymour, a member of the Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel, who says that check-ups and treatment may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. He added that ‘It is vital for people to go through basic periodontal screening at least once a year so that a thorough inspection of periodontal tissues can be achieved.’
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