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What The Health Of Your Teeth And Gums Has To Do With The Health Of Your Heart

A new study provides further evidence of the link between oral health and heart health.

Researchers found an association between periodontal disease, including gum bleeding and tooth loss, and heart risk factors, including large waist circumference and high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"The evident and consistent relationship between self-reported dental status and CV risk in this population could point towards periodontal disease being a risk factor for incident CHD," study researcher Dr. Ola Vedin, of the University of Uppsala, said in a statement.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, included 15,828 people from 39 countries who were part of the STABILITY trial. All the participants had coronary heart disease and at least another heart risk factor; researchers had them complete questionnaires regarding their lifestyles, including dental health habits, as well as how many teeth they had remaining and how often they experienced gum bleeding. The participants also underwent blood testing and a physical exam. Nearly 70 percent of the participants were current or former smokers.

One-fourth of the participants reported gum bleeding during teeth-brushing; 41 percent reported having fewer than 15 teeth left, and 16 percent had no teeth at all.

Researchers found an association not only between number of heart risk factors and periodontal disease, but also higher levels of these heart disease biomarkers and periodontal disease.

"It is still a matter of debate whether periodontal disease is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. Some studies point to a moderate association while others are contradictory. Our findings show an association between self-reported periodontal disease and several cardiovascular risk factors and as such lend support to a possible association between the conditions," Vedin said in the statement. However, more research is needed before one could definitively say that dental hygiene is a way to lower heart risks, Vedin added.

Still, other studies have linked oral health with heart health. A study presented in 2011 at a meeting of the American Heart Association, for instance, showed that getting your teeth professionally cleaned even just once in your life is associated with a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke (though the association is strongest among people who get yearly cleanings).

And another study published last year in the journal General Dentistry showed an association between gum disease and obesity, though that research did not say which one caused the other.

Poor oral health has also been linked in other research to pancreatic cancer, as well as oral human papillomavirus. For more ways oral health can affect the health of the rest of your body, click here.