How is your dental hygiene connected to your heart?

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Clean, healthy teeth may reduce heart disease.
Clean, healthy teeth may reduce heart disease.

Brushing your teeth may be good for your heart, a new study suggests.

It included more than 161 000 South Korean adults, ages 40 to 79, with no history of heart failure or the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation.

Lower risk of afib

Between 2003 and 2004, participants had a routine medical exam and were asked about a wide range of lifestyle habits, including how often they brushed their teeth.

During a median follow-up of 10.5 years, 3% developed afib and 4.9%, developed heart failure. (Median means half were followed for less time, half for more.)

Those who brushed their teeth three or more times a day had a 10% lower risk of afib and a 12% lower risk of heart failure during the follow-up.

The reduced risk was independent of age, sex, wealth, exercise, alcohol use, body fat and conditions such as high blood pressure, according to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Researchers didn't investigate how regular brushing might reduce heart disease risk. But previous studies have suggested that poor oral hygiene results in bacteria in the blood, causing inflammation that increases odds of heart disease.

Role of inflammation

The study was conducted in one country and was observational, so it does not prove a direct link between regular brushing and reduced heart risk, said senior author Dr Tae-Jin Song, of the Department of Neurology at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

But he added: "We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings."

An editorial accompanying the study said it is "certainly too early" to recommend tooth brushing to prevent afib and heart failure.

"While the role of inflammation in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is becoming more and more evident, intervention studies are needed to define strategies of public health importance," the editorial said.

Image credit: iStock

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