29 April 2019

Take your children to the dentist

Scientists have uncovered an unusual link between caries and atherosclerosis

RIA News

People who often suffered from caries and other dental problems in childhood are almost twice as likely to become victims of atherosclerosis than their healthier peers. Finnish cardiologists write about this in the journal JAMA Network Open (Pussinen et al., Association of Childhood Oral Infections With Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Adulthood).

"We have never encountered such an unusual relationship before, since it never occurred to anyone to compare how healthy the oral cavity of patients was in childhood with the frequency of heart disease among them. This discovery suggests that oral infections should be dealt with already in childhood," said Pirkko Pussinen from the University of Helsinki (in a press release Childhood diseases and periodontal diseases may increase the risk of atherosclerosis in adulthood – VM).

Atherosclerosis and concomitant heart and vascular diseases, according to WHO statistics, remain one of the main causes of death in most countries of the world, despite all attempts to defeat it. As a rule, the development of this disease begins with the accumulation of cholesterol on the walls of blood vessels, which after a while leads to their thickening, accumulation of calcium in them and loss of flexibility.

So far, scientists have not revealed the specific mechanisms of the formation of cholesterol plaques and calcareous deposits in the walls of blood vessels. Some researchers believe that changes in the work of genes associated with fat metabolism, leading to the accumulation of "harmful" cholesterol in the blood, are to blame for the development of atherosclerosis. Other biologists suggest that the "trigger" of the disease is something else.

Recently, Russian biologists have found out that atherosclerosis develops not because of disorders in the metabolism of fats, but because of the development of foci of inflammation inside the walls of blood vessels. These inflammations were caused by macrophages, special immune cells whose metabolic disorders lead to the accumulation of fats inside these cells.

Poussin and his colleagues discovered another factor influencing the development of atherosclerosis by analyzing statistics completely unrelated to it – how often people who participated in "lifelong" observations of their health suffered from caries in childhood.

This project, CRYFS, involved 755 Finnish citizens, whose parents, and then themselves, agreed to almost constant checks on the condition of their hearts and blood vessels, as well as other aspects of their life.

All these people underwent a series of dental examinations at the age of six, nine and twelve, starting from the time when their baby teeth began to fall out. Doctors not only treated them, but also noted how many traces of caries were present on their teeth, whether they suffered from gum inflammation, bleeding, periodontal disease and whether they had fillings.

Three decades later, they underwent a series of new examinations, during which scientists measured the thickness of the walls of their arteries and checked whether they had early forms of atherosclerosis and other heart and vascular diseases.

Analyzing these data, Finnish cardiologists came across an unexpected thing. It turned out that the presence of dental problems in childhood greatly influenced the likelihood of getting atherosclerosis, and it did not depend on the overall health of each volunteer. Moreover, the more traces of caries and other traces of oral infections there were, the higher this risk was.

For example, people who had only one damaged tooth or filling were 87% more likely to become victims of early forms of atherosclerosis, while the presence of four oral health problems increased this risk almost twice.

Interestingly, this relationship was more pronounced among men – the appearance of advanced forms of caries in childhood increased the risk of vascular overgrowth by about 1.5 times, while the presence of all four problems raised it to the level of 225%.

According to the researchers, only 5% of children studied in the early 1980s did not suffer from dental problems. This suggests that the incidence of atherosclerosis can be significantly reduced if parents and doctors begin to actively help children to observe oral hygiene and avoid the development of severe problems with the oral cavity in the first years of life.

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