Jun 26, 2010

Science Scene - Heart of the Matter

Never mind your dentist. Your cardiologist might want you to brush your teeth more often.

Neglecting to brush twice a day could lead to a 70 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new large population-based study.

Researchers examined self-reported oral hygiene habits and coronary disease in 11,869 adults aged 35 and older (with a mean age of 50) from the Scottish Health Survey—a study conducted once every three to five years—between the years 1995 and 2003. The team followed up with subjects after an average of eight years to see if they had had a heart attack or coronary disease.

Even though the researchers found that those who reported brushing their teeth less than twice a day were more likely to be male, older, smokers and to have other health issues (such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity), the team controlled for those variables and others and still found that tooth brushing is associated with cardiovascular disease. The association held even after adjusting for socioeconomic group, visits to dentist, BMI, family history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diagnosis of diabetes.

Although the study isn't proof of causation, the researchers highlight inflammation as a possible mechanism behind the link between periodontal disease and heart disease.  Chronic inflammation—and the body's response to it—is thought to be a factor for heart disease, and as the authors noted, periodontal disease "is one of the most common chronic infections and is associated with a moderate systemic inflammatory response."



  1. I recently was reminded of this study. Despite not being able to identify lack of dental hygiene as a causation, it certainly can't be a benefit. The stress having gum disease puts on the nervous system has to take its toll on the heart.

  2. Hi Ken,
    I've heard this from a variety of sources ... and not just about brushing. They say that flossing at least once a day is important, too.

  3. This isn't the first time I've heard of this connection. I'm a confirmed flosser after not doing it for the first forty two years of my life.


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