HealthDay News — Oral infections in childhood are associated with subclinical carotid atherosclerosis in adulthood, according to a study published online April 26 in JAMA Network Open.

Pirkko J. Pussinen, Ph.D., from the University of Helsinki, and colleagues examined whether signs of oral infection in childhood are associated with cardiovascular risk factors and subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood in a cohort study involving 755 participants. Participants underwent clinical oral examinations at age 6, 9, or 12 years and were followed up in adulthood in 2001 and in 2007.

Of the children, 4.5 percent had no sign of oral infections, while 5.6, 17.4, 38.3, and 34.1 percent had one, two, three, and four signs, respectively. The researchers found that with an increase in the number of oral infections in childhood and adulthood, the cumulative exposure to risk factors increased. Childhood oral infections, including signs of either periodontal disease, caries, or both, correlated with adulthood intima-media thickness (IMT). Increased IMT was associated with the presence of any sign of oral infection in childhood, with a relative risk of 1.87 for the third tertile versus the first two. The relative risk was 1.95 for the presence of all four signs. The correlations were more obvious in boys.

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This study “underscores the idea that the distinction between oral health and systemic health is blurred and somewhat artificial,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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