Abstract The aim of the present study was to compare the dietary intake and the levels of traditional cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors in edentulous middle-aged individuals and individuals of the same age and sex who still had natural teeth. The study was performed within the framework of the MONICA-project. Population registers were used to sample randomly 1287 men and 1330 women aged 25–64 yr. Data were collected from a mailed questionnaire, blood analyses, registrations of blood pressure and anthropometric measures. The estimated daily energy intake did not differ between the two groups, but edentulous men and women ate more sweet snacks compared to those who still had teeth. Edentulous men also ate less fruits, vegetables and fibre and edentulous women ate more fat than dentates. Edentulous men and women were more obese and had lower serum HDL-cholesterol concentrations than those with remaining teeth. Edentulous women also had significantly higher concentrations of total cholesterol and triglycerides in serum than dentate women. Edentulous men and women were more often regular smokers, but not snuff users, than dentates of the same age and sex. Thus, the presence of two or more cardiovascular risk factors was more common in edentulous individuals than in those who still had natural teeth. In summary, these results support the hypothesis that edentulous middle-aged individuals have a more unfavourable risk factor profile for CVD. Counselling on balanced dietary habits and non-smoking given by dental personnel to orally diseased patients – recommendations given to improve resistance to dental caries or periodontitis – might therefore improve general health and possibly also improve risk factors for CVD.