Brush Now for a Better Heart?

Did you know that good oral hygiene can help lower your risk of atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, and heart failure?

According to a study published in December 2019 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, brushing your teeth can help reduce the amount of bacteria in the blood.

By reducing the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease, brushing also reduces inflammation in the body.

‘The benefits become like a domino effect. Taking care of your teeth by brushing at least twice per day and flossing at least once per day can reduce the presence of bacteria,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley of Legends Dental in Waco, Texas.

Once inflammation is reduced, the risk of atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes irregular heartbeat, is diminished. The risk of developing heart failure, a condition that develops when the heart’s ability to pump blood is impaired, is also reduced.

The study examined the connection between oral hygiene and the occurrence of these two conditions by analyzing the health information of 161,286 participants enrolled in the Korean National Health Insurance System. Participants were between the ages of 40 and 79, with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure.

Information was collected from the participants during routine medical examinations conducted between 2003 and 2004. Data collected from the participants included height, weight, laboratory tests, illnesses and lifestyle behaviors. It also included information about participants’ oral health and their oral hygiene behaviors.

After a median follow-up at 10.5 years, researchers found that 4,911, or 10 percent, of the participants developed atrial fibrillation, and 7,971, or 4.9 percent, developed heart failure.

Individuals who brushed their teeth three or more times a day had a 10 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation. This group also had a 12 percent lower risk of heart failure at the 10.5-year follow-up mark.

Included in the findings were other factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise and alcohol consumption. Additional factors considered included body mass index (BMI) and co-morbidities such as hypertension.

One of the researchers’ theories is that frequent toothbrushing eliminates the bacteria living in the subgingival film in the pockets between the teeth and gums. When this bacteria is removed, it cannot relocate into the bloodstream.

Study authors also noted that their research was limited to one country, and does not currently prove causation. The researchers hope to expand the study to a larger group over a longer period to further support their findings.

The role of inflammation in the development of cardiovascular diseases is becoming increasingly evident, and more studies are being developed to determine the relationship further.

Source: Everyday Health. Can Regular Toothbrushing Lower Risk of AFib and Heart Failure? 9 December 2019.