People who have advanced tooth loss often have a history of inflammatory oral diseases. The University of Helsinki in collaboration with The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recently published an extensive cohort study in the Journal of Dental Research that found that tooth loss is associated with diabetes, future cardiovascular events, and even death. Researcher John Liljestrand stated that noting the number of missing teeth in patients could be useful for medical practitioners screening people for risk factors for chronic disease.
The study began in 1997 following 8,446 subjects from Finland, aged 25 to 75. The subjects filled out a comprehensive questionnaire and also participated in clinical exams. The researchers used the number of missing teeth as their baseline and they found incidents of diseases and death by referring to national registers in follow-up 13 years later.
According to the research, people with more than five missing teeth were at an increased risk as high as 140% for coronary heart disease and myocardial infarctions. If a subject had more than nine missing teeth, the research “indicated an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases (51 %), diabetes (31 %) and death (37 %).” The corresponding risks for subjects who lacked teeth (edentulous) were reported at 40-68 %. The researchers took traditional risk factors “into account in the statistical analyses.”
The most common cause of death worldwide is noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These diseases are known to be associated with oral inflammatory diseases like periodontitis, which can result in the loss of teeth when left untreated. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in the middle aged and elderly.