Periodontal Disease May Increase Risk for Early Death

July 31, 2007

by Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH – Younger adults who have lost teeth because of periodontal disease may be at risk for early death, a study says.

The study involved 1,676 Swedish adults. They ranged from 30 to 40 years old when they started the study. Researchers kept track of them from 1985 to 2001. Each person was given a complete dental exam when first enrolled.

After 17 years, 40 of them had died. The people who died were much more likely to have periodontal disease. They also were more likely to have lost at least one molar tooth because of the disease. THe researchers concluded that people with periodontal disease and missing molars seemed to be at increased risk for early death from cancer and from cardiovascular problems.

At its most severe, periodontal disease leads to bone loss in the jaw. This can cause teeth to become loose and fall out.

In 1998, a similar study was done by the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA). It was published in the Annals of Periodontology. The study kept track of 804 adults for more than 25 years. During that time, 166 died.

The VA researchers found that those who had lost the most bone in their jaws had an 85% increased risk of dying early, compared with people who had lost the least bone. That’s even higher than the 52% increased risk of early death among smokers in the study.

The VA study canceled out the effects of blood pressure, education, body mass index, family history of heart disease, age, and smoking and alcohol use. The study still found that bone loss due to periodontal disease increased a person’s risk of dying.

Both studies cancelled out the effects of some factors that are related to dying, such as age. But there were many other factors they could not rule out. More studies are needed to see whether periodontal disease with tooth loss truly is linked with premature death.

The Swedish study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontal Research.

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