Dental surgery riskier than you thought

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A new article from the journal Annals of Internal Medicine has found that an individual who undergoes dental surgery has a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke for a few weeks after the procedure.

This is a unique study, in that it is among the first to investigate short-term risk of dental procedures and acute inflammation. According to the study, the elevated risk has returned to normal by six months after the procedure.

The researchers believe inflammation is the link, with bacteria seeping into the bloodstream from a periodontal infection. The bacteria may build up in the blood vessels, resulting in inflammation, which increases the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Lead researcher, Caroline Minassian, MSc, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says that their findings provide more compelling evidence linking acute inflammation with cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attack or stroke).

The researchers stress that the enduring benefits of the dental treatment are greater than the temporary risk of adverse effects.

They gathered data from the U.S. Medicaid claims database involving 32,060 adults who had had a stroke or heart attack. They then traced their medical histories back to determine how many had undergone invasive dental surgery. 525 individuals had had a heart attack and 650 a stroke, all of them after dental surgery. They factored in variables which may on their own or in combination raise stroke and heart attack risk, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, coronary artery disease, or individuals with prescriptions for antiplatelet or salicylate drugs before treatment.

The authors concluded that invasive dental treatment may be associated with a transient increase in the risk for vascular events. However, the absolute risks are minimal, and the long-term benefits on vascular health will probably outweigh the short-lived adverse effects.

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