Dental decay — an important inflammation

A recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that “oral infections in childhood appear to be associated with the sub-clinical carotid atherosclerosis seen in adulthood.”

The data are compelling. The presence of any sign of oral infection in childhood was associated with increased atherosclerosis by almost twofold, independent of normal cardiovascular risk factors.

How can having better oral health as a child, significantly reduce cardiovascular problems later in life?

Some insights may be provided by a recent discovery at the University of Toronto. The discovery found the innate immune system (neutrophils) was triggered by the bacteria causing cavities, and flooded the mouth. The researchers observed that these immune cells caused further damage to the teeth and fillings. And, it seems logical, these cells also caused systemic, low-grade inflammation too.

We know a child with cavities has a good chance of having cavities later in life. That’s largely because the bacterial load, or is that inflammatory load, continues despite fillings and other dental surgery. Years of this low level inflammation may well lead to systemic inflammation causing heart problems.