Most people are taught to brush their teeth regularly at an early age to prevent cavities from developing. While brushing your teeth will certainly help achieve this (as well as prevent other issues, such as gum disease), it turns out teeth-brushing can also help lower the risk of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and heart failure.
How Brushing Your Teeth Can Improve Heart Health
The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology recently published a study linking oral health to atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Previously, it was believed poor oral hygiene would lead to bacteria in the blood. This would result in inflammation, which would increase the risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure. The study was performed to define the link between oral health and these two heart issues more clearly.
The study involved:
- 161,286 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System
- Participants between ages 40-79
- Participants had no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure
Between 2003 and 2004, participants underwent routine medical exams collecting information that included illnesses, oral hygiene behaviors, oral health, and more. During a median follow-up exam of 10.5 years, 7.971 participants experienced heart failure, while 4,911 participants developed atrial fibrillation.
Based on the information collected, participants that brushed their teeth three or more times a day had a 12% lower risk of heart failure and a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation. The study did not investigate mechanisms. One reason brushing your teeth could improve heart health is because it reduces the bacteria between the teeth and the gums. This prevents the bacteria from entering the bloodstream.
The findings were independent of other heart-risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, sex, age, body mass index, and more. Additionally, the study was limited to one country. However, a very large group of people were studied over a long period of time, which strengthens the findings.
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