Advanced tooth loss can often indicate that a person has a history of inflammatory oral diseases. In a study carried out by the University of Helsinki (Finland) in collaboration with The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), an association was found between tooth loss and future cardiovascular events, diabetes and death.
The researchers suggests that the number of missing teeth could be a useful additional indicator for general medical practitioners, when individual risk factors for chronic diseases are assessed.
The National FINRISK 1997 Study is a Finnish population-based survey of 8,446 subjects, aged 25-75, who filled in a comprehensive questionnaire and participated in clinical examinations. The number of missing teeth was recorded at baseline and information on incident disease events and deaths was obtained via national registers in a 13-year follow-up.
The results showed:
- more than five missing teeth increased the risk for coronary heart disease events and myocardial infarctions by as much as 140%; and,
- more than nine missing teeth indicated an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases (51%), diabetes (31%) and death (37%).
Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the most common cause of death worldwide. They are known to associate with inflammatory oral diseases, such as periodontitis. Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease in the gums, which appears as gingival bleeding, increased tooth mobility and deepened periodontal pockets. It may result in the loss of teeth if left untreated, and is the most common cause of tooth loss in the middle aged and elderly.