To what extent does good oral hygiene protect your heart?

Brushing your teeth three or more times per day is associated with lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure, which are respectively reduced by 10% and 12%.

A vast South Korean observational study has added weight to the theory that good oral hygiene reduces risks of cardiovascular disease. According to the latest research, brushing your teeth three or more times per day lowers the risk of heart failure by 12%. 

In recent years, several studies have indicated that brushing your teeth regularly and correctly helps to prevent heart disease. To verify this theory, doctors at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, conducted a vast study on 161,286 South Koreans aged between 40 and 79, who had no history of heart disease.

The study, which has been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology focused on data from the South Korean national health system and in particular on routine medical examinations that took place between 2003 and 2004. 

Using these sources, the researchers benefited from information on the height, weight, laboratory test results, possible diseases, lifestyle and oral health of the patients participating in the study. The authors of the study then analyzed the volunteers' medical data over a median period of 10.5 years to measure the prevalence of atrial fibrillation (arrhythmic heart disorder) or heart failure.

- 12% lower risk of heart failure if you brush your teeth three times a day -

The results showed that over a little  more than ten years, 4,911 participants (3%) developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 (4.9%) heart failure. Participants who brushed their teeth three or more times a day benefited from a 10% reduction in atrial fibrillation and a 12% reduction in heart failure.

The incidence of these diseases was measured independently of a number of factors such as age, gender, socio-economic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption or body mass index.

Although the study did not determine the exact mechanism underlying the relationship between frequent tooth brushing and potentially mitigated negative effects on arteries, the findings suggest that frequent teeth brushing could reduce oral bacteria between the teeth and the gums, and prevent their translocation into systemic circulation.

"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," points out an accompanying editorial in the journal. Senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song also argues that more research in several countries will be necessary to validate this theory.