Does Gum Disease Boost Death Risk After Menopause?

Does Gum Disease Boost Death Risk After Menopause?

Gum disease and tooth loss may be associated with a higher risk of death among postmenopausal women, according to a new study.

The research also links loss of all natural teeth with an increased risk of death, but not an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gum and connective tissue surrounding the teeth, affects nearly two-thirds of US adults 60 and older. The loss of all one’s teeth, called edentulism, affects about one-third of US adults 60 and older and often results from periodontal disease.

“Beside their negative impact on oral function and dietary habits, these conditions are also thought to be related to chronic diseases of aging,” says Michael J. LaMonte, research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed the health information from the Women’s Health Initiative program—a study of 57,001 women, 55 years and older.

“Previous studies included smaller sample sizes or had limited numbers of cardiovascular disease events for analysis. Ours is among the largest and focuses exclusively on postmenopausal women in whom periodontitis, total tooth loss, and cardiovascular disease is high nationally,” LaMonte says.

In 6.7-year follow-up of the women in the study, the findings showed:


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  • There were 3,589 cardiovascular disease events and 3,816 deaths.
  • History of periodontal disease was associated with a 12 percent higher risk of death from any cause.
  • Loss of all natural teeth was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of death from any cause. The risk of death associated with periodontal disease was comparable regardless of how often women saw their dentists.
  • Women who had lost their teeth were older, had more CVD risk factors, less education, and visited the dentist less frequently compared to women with their teeth.

“Our findings suggest that older women may be at higher risk for death because of their periodontal condition and may benefit from more intensive oral screening measures,” LaMonte says.

“However, studies of interventions aimed at improving periodontal health are needed to determine whether risk of death is lowered among those receiving the intervention compared to those who do not. Our study was not able to establish a direct cause and effect.”

Additional coauthors are from the University at Buffalo, Brown University, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, George Washington University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Source: University at Buffalo

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