Brushing your teeth could protect your heart

By Devika Sunand

In this fast paced world, how many of you managed to stick to the routine of brushing your teeth twice a day? You may want to get back to this routine when I tell you that it can actually protect your heart. A recent study by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), showed that brushing your teeth can actually be good for your heart. According to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology on 2 December 2019, brushing teeth frequently is linked with lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

Studies suggest that poor oral hygiene leads to bacteria in the blood, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation increases the risks of atrial fibrillation, a phasic condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast, along with heart failure, meaning the heart’s ability to pump blood is impaired. For the study, 161,286 participants of the Korean national health insurance system aged 40 to 79 were enrolled. The participants were made sure to have no history of atrial fibrillation, heart failure or diseases of the heart valve. For oral hygiene indicators, presence of periodontal disease, any reasons for dental visit, professional dental cleaning, and number of missing teeth were investigated. They underwent a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004. Information on height, weight, laboratory tests, illness, lifestyle, oral health and oral hygiene behaviours were collected.

During a follow up of 10.5 years, 4,911 (3.0%) participants developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 (4.9%) developed heart failure. After adjusting necessary variables including age, sex and blood pressure to account for non-dental health related changes in heart function, tooth brushing three or more times a day was found to be associated with 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure. The study also raised the possibility that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria in the  bacteria living in the pocket between the teeth and gums, called the subgingival biofilm, thereby preventing translocation to the bloodstream.

Even though the study came out with surprising conclusions, it had various limitations. One of which senior author Dr.Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, noted. The study was limited to a particular ethnicity, as data consisted of only individuals in Asian population. But he also added that because a large group was studied for a long period of time this strength to the findings.

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