Brushing the teeth three or more times a day lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that frequent toothbrushing is associated with lower risks of heart failure and atrial fibrillation.
What is the link between oral health and heart disease?
Previous studies have shown that the bacteria that infect the gums also travel to our blood where they cause damage and inflammation. The inflammation is said to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related conditions. Heart failure is when the heart cannot keep up with its workload and is not pumping as well as it should be.
About the study
The study involved 161,286 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System between the ages 40 to 79 with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure. Between 2003 and 2004, the participants underwent a routine medical exam. Information on their illnesses, lifestyle, oral health, oral hygiene behaviors, lab tests, height and weight were also gathered.
Over a median follow-up of 10.5 years, 4,911 (3.0%) participants developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 (4.9%) developed heart failure.
Results of the retrospective study found that toothbrushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure.
These findings were independent of a number of factors including sex, age, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, body mass index and comorbidities such as hypertension.
In a press release, researchers say, “While the study did not investigate mechanisms, one possibility is that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria in the subgingival biofilm (bacteria living in the pocket between the teeth and gums), thereby preventing translocation to the bloodstream.”
Dr. Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea, senior author of the study, noted that the analysis was limited to one country and as an observational study does not prove causation, but added, “We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings.”
“It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure”. Also, it adds, “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.”
European Society of Cardiology Press Release
American Heart Association (Atrial Fibrillation, Heart Failure)
European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2019; 204748731988601 DOI: 10.1177/2047487319886018