Children who have cavities and gum disease may be more likely to develop risk factors for heart attacks and strokes decades later than kids who have good oral health, a recent study suggests.
Researchers did dental checks for 755 children in 1980, when they were eight years old on average, then followed them through 2007 to see how many of them developed risk factors for heart attacks and strokes like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar and hardening of the arteries.
Overall, just 33 kids, or 4.5 per cent, had no signs of bleeding, cavities, fillings or pockets around teeth that can signal gum disease.
Almost 6 per cent had one of these four signs of oral infections, while 17 per cent had two signs, 38 per cent had three signs and 34 per cent had all four signs.
Kids who had even one sign of oral infection were 87 per cent more likely to develop what is known as subclinical atherosclerosis - structural changes and thickening in the artery walls that is not yet serious enough to cause complications.
Children with all four signs of poor oral health were 95 per cent more likely to develop this type of artery damage.
Oral infections are among the most common causes of inflammation-induced diseases worldwide, and periodontal disease in adults have long been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers noted in medical journal Jama Network Open.