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Oral Care

Some Dental Treatment Is Linked to Heart Risk

Study Shows Short-Term Risk After Invasive Dental Procedures
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 18, 2010 -- Heart attack and stroke risk may rise in the month following invasive dental treatments such as tooth extractions, a study shows.

The risk returns to normal levels within six months, according to the study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

This is not the first time oral health and heart health have been linked, and the likely culprit is inflammation.  The theory is that bacteria from periodontal infection can enter your bloodstream. Once this occurs, the bacteria accumulate along the blood vessels, causing inflammation, which can make people more vulnerable to heart attacks and stroke.

"These findings provide further evidence to support the link between acute inflammation and the risk for vascular events," conclude the study researchers, who were led by Caroline Minassian, MSc, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "The short-lived adverse effects are nevertheless likely to be outweighed by long-term benefits of invasive dental work."

Researchers reviewed Medicaid claims data of 32,060 adults who had a heart attack or stroke, and then they backtracked to see if the person had undergone any invasive dental procedures. There were 650 people who had a stroke and 525 who had a heart attack after invasive dental work. The researchers took into account other factors known to increase risk for heart attack and stroke, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Those who underwent invasive dental work had an increased risk for heart attack or stroke in the four weeks after their procedure, but this risk was "transient," the researchers report.

More than half of the heart attack and strokes seen in the study occurred in women, and 30% in people who were younger than 50, the study showed.

Second Opinion

Howard Weitz, MD, director of the division of cardiology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says he is concerned that the new study will encourage people to avoid seeing their dentist out of fear of heart attack or stroke.

"Further work has to be done before we can say there is any link," he says. Weitz co-authored an editorial that accompanied the new study.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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