According to a study carried out at the University of Helsinki, Finland and published in the Journal of Dental Research, an infection of the root tip of a tooth increases the risk of coronary artery disease, even if the infection is symptomless. Hidden dental root tip infections are very common and are usually only detected by chance from x-rays.
Researcher John Liljestrand said: “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”.
Dental root tip infection is a bodily defence reaction against microbial infection in the dental pulp. Tooth decay is its most common cause.
Today, information is increasingly available about the connection between oral infections and many common chronic diseases. For example, periodontitis, an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues that surround the teeth, causes low-grade inflammation and is regarded as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and diabetes.
The study consisted of 508 patients with a mean age of 62, who were experiencing heart symptoms. Their coronary arteries were examined, and 36% of them were found to be suffering from stable coronary artery disease, 33% had acute coronary syndrome, and 31% did not suffer from coronary artery disease to a significant degree. Their teeth were examined and as many as 58% were found to be suffering from one or more inflammatory lesions.
Root canal treatment of an infected tooth may reduce the risk of heart disease, but more research is needed.