HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Dental root tip infections -- relatively common and often symptomless -- increase risk for heart disease, researchers found in a new study.
More than half the participants in a study of heart disease patients in Finland also had dental root tip infections, report researchers at the University of Helsinki, adding to growing evidence that dental problems increase risk for heart disease.
Low-grade inflammation caused by a range of dental conditions, including periodontal disease, has been linked to heart disease in previous studies.
Dental root tip infection is an immune response to infection of dental pulp, the most common cause of which are cavities. The infections are often symptomless and detected by chance in X-rays, researchers say.
For the study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, researchers took angiograms of 508 patients with a mean age of 62 who had symptoms of heart disease, 123 of whom did not have coronary heart disease, 184 had stable coronary heart disease and 169 had acute coronary syndrome.
The researchers report 58 percent of the participants had one or more inflammatory lesions in their teeth or jaws, finding high levels of serum antibodies linked to infection in participants with one or more lesion.
While root canal can clear the infections, more research is needed on whether the treatment reduces risk of heart disease -- though researchers say it's worth it to have the procedure anyway.
"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," John Liljestrand, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, said in a press release.