You could have a dental infection and and not even know it!

A dental infection in the root of a tooth can increase your chances of heart disease, even if you don’t have any symptoms. These types of hidden dental infections are extremely common. Infections often go undetected until routine dental x-rays are taken and the infection is apparent. Most commonly, a root canal is indicated. Sometimes, the tooth is beyond repair and is recommended for extraction.

Dr. John Liljestrand, from the University of Helinski reports that “acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more common among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment than among patients without this issue.” This study was done at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases of the University of Helsinki and published in the Journal of Dental Research.

Cavities are the most common culprit in tooth root infection or infection of the dental pulp. Researchers are finding more and more evidence that connects dental infection to other chronic systemic disorders. For example periodontitis is an inflammatory disease causing low-grade inflammation. This inflammation is considered a risk factor for diabetes, coronary artery disease, low-weight births, rheumatoid arthritis and even certain types of cancer. Root tip infections in teeth appear to cause low-grade inflammation as well. Root canal treatment can eliminate the infection and hence the inflammation.

Heart disease causes more that 30% of deaths world-wide. With a healthy diet, exercise, weight control and not smoking, heart disease may be prevented. Treating oral infections can also add to this preventive regimen. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis and review of full mouth x-rays every 3-5 years can also be added to this preventive approach.

If you are seeing a physician for heart issues or planning for any kind of surgery, make sure you have clearance from your dentist or periodontist ruling out any evidence of dental infection. Often, doctors will delay surgery until any or all dental infections are cleared up.