Apical periodontitis tends to be common, though it’s usually detected only by chance via x-rays. But there’s an even greater danger in these dental root tip infections, as these patients are more likely to develop coronary artery disease as well, according to the University of Helsinki.
“Acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more common among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment than among patients without this issue,” said John Liljestrand of the department of oral and maxillofacial diseases at the university.
Most often caused by caries, apical periodontitis is the body’s defensive reaction against microbial infection in the dental pulp. The university reports that as many as one in 4 Finns suffers from at least one such infection.
Periodontitis is commonly regarded as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. However, dental root tip infections have not been thoroughly studied in this context, even though they appear to be connected with low-grade inflammation as well.
The study comprised 508 Finnish patients with a mean age of 62 years experiencing heart symptoms. The researchers used angiography to examine the subjects’ coronary arteries, finding 36% suffering from stable coronary artery disease, 33% with acute coronary syndrome, and 31% not seeing a significant degree of coronary artery disease.
Via panoramic tomography of the teeth and jaws, as many as 58% of the subjects showed one or more inflammatory lesions. Also, researchers found connections between dental root tip infections and a high level of serum antibodies related to common bacteria causing such infections.
The researchers concluded, then, that oral infections affect other parts of the body as well. Their analyses accounted for age, gender, smoking, type 2 diabetes, body mass index, periodontitis, and the number of teeth as confounding factors.
While cardiovascular diseases cause more than 30% of deaths globally, many can be prevented by diet, exercise, and abstention from smoking. The researchers say that preventing and treating oral infections also may improve the health of the heart. Additionally, root canals may reduce the risk of heart disease, though further research is needed.
The study, “Association of Endodontic Lesions with Coronary Artery Disease,” was published by the Journal of Dental Research.