Brush your teeth for a healthy heart

Getty A stock image shows a man brushing his teeth. Scientists believe it could protect the heart

Past research has linked poor oral hygiene with an increased risk of developing certain chronic health conditions, but a new study warns that brushing once or twice a day may not be adequately protecting your heart.

Though the study does not explain why, researchers hypothesize that frequent toothbrushing lowers bacteria rates in the crevices between the teeth and gums, known as the "subgingival biofilm". This study aims to investigate association of oral hygiene indicators with atrial fibrillation and heart failure risk in Korea.

To understand how tooth brushing affects heart health, researchers studied over 160,000 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System between ages 40 to 79.

Brushing your teeth at least three times a day could lower the risk of heart failure by more than 10 percent, a major study has found.

The researchers had over 161,000 participants involved in the study, none of whom had any issues regarding their heart health when the study began.

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During that time, 3 per cent of volunteers experienced a case of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heart beat, while 4.9 per cent experienced heart failure at least once. In multivariate analysis after adjusting age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, current smoking, renal disease, history of cancer, systolic blood pressure, blood and urine laboratory findings, frequent tooth brushing (≥3 times/day) was significantly associated with attenuated risk of atrial fibrillation (hazard ratio: 0.90, 95% confidence interval (0.83-0.98)) and heart failure (0.88, (0.82-0.94)).

The new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that brushing teeth keeps in check the bacteria which causes inflammation.

For some experts, it's all about inflammation.

Another popular train of thought, captured by Robert H. Shmerling, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is that the bacteria from gum diseases like gingivitis can also travel to "blood vessels elsewhere in the body". "Supporting this idea is the finding of remnants of oral bacteria within atherosclerotic blood vessels far from the mouth". "It is possible that people who are very attentive to their dental health are also very attentive to other aspects of their health", Bolger told the AHA last November. This may extend to their decision whether or not to smoke cigarettes for example, which remains one of the most "preventable causes of heart disease. Therefore, the importance of taking good care of oral health can be reaffirmed through the results of this study", Song said.

Information from Daily.uk.co was also used in this report.

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