Oral health and overall health are closely linked. We’ve talked about the many health consequences of gum disease and how getting root canal therapy could prevent heart attacks.

Now a new study shows how deep this connection runs. According to this study, children who have poor oral health are at a higher risk for heart problems almost 30 years later. Taking care of your children’s oral health is one of the most important things you can do to help them enjoy long, happy lives. As a family dentistry practice, we want to help your children get off to the right start in life.

A dentist showing a little girl and her dad the correct way to brush teeth. Oral health and care is so important as children who have poor oral health are at a higher risk for heart problems almost 30 years later.

Linking Childhood Oral Health to Adult Heart Risk

This study started in 1980, with a group of 755 children who were 6, 9, or 12 years old at the time. They were given oral health exams, and their oral health problems were recorded. The signs of poor oral health researchers recorded included untreated cavities, filled cavities, deep periodontal pockets, and bleeding gums. Most of the children had oral health problems, with 34% having all four signs, 38% having three signs, 17% having two signs, and 6% having one sign. Less than 5% had no signs of poor oral health.

Then researchers followed up with these children in 2001 and 2007. They evaluated their cardiovascular health, looking at a measurement called intima-media thickness (IMT). This measurement looks at the thickness of the arteries’ two internal layers, which can indicate if a person is developing plaque in their arteries. This is the first stage of hardening arteries, which can then lead to numerous cardiovascular problems, including stroke and heart attack.

They found that kids with even one sign of poor oral health were about twice as likely to have a higher IMT.The risk factor was essentially the same for all four signs of poor oral health, and the number of signs didn’t have a statistically significant impact. However, the level of risk persisted despite correcting for 31 known risk factors for heart disease.

Limitations of the Study

This study provides us with powerful evidence of the link between oral health as a child and heart health as an adult. However, it’s still flawed. For example, researchers didn’t perform oral health exams on the adults in the study, so we can’t analyze how current oral health related to heart health. That would be especially important for telling us the extent to which this is a modifiable risk factor–can you counter the impact of poor oral health at a young age with good oral health later?

Take Oral Health Seriously from a Young Age

Although we don’t know the extent to which taking better care of your teeth in later life can change your risks, this study shows us that early oral health can make a big difference in your heart health later. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your kids get proper care, including regular checkups and cleanings.

If you are looking for a family dentist in Orange County, NY, please call (845) 783-6466 today for an appointment at Harriman Family Dental.