More evidence that having a healthy smile could be linked with a healthy heart has been uncovered by Korean scientists. This latest study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, suggests frequent tooth brushing may be linked with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation as well as heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation – which is a fast, abnormal and sometimes irregular heartbeat – is thought to affect around two people in every 100 in the UK, mostly older people. And the main problem is that having atrial fibrillation increases your risk of having a stroke (though it can also lead to heart failure in some cases).
Heart failure – which is when your heart can’t pump blood around your body effectively – is also common in the UK, affecting around one in seven people aged 85 or older and one in 35 aged 65 – 74.
But if this study – which involved more than 160,000 participants aged 40 – 79 – is anything to go by, brushing up on your oral health could well help reduce your risk of both heart problems. It shows that after 10 years, three per cent of the participants developed atrial fibrillation and almost five per cent developed heart failure (none of the participants had either condition at the start of the study period). But those who brushed their teeth three or more times a day had a 10 per cent lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12 per cent lower risk of heart failure.
As a cohort study, it didn’t look at exactly why frequent tooth brushing had such an effect. But previous research has suggested poor oral health may cause inflammation in the body because bacteria from your mouth (specifically the bacteria living in the area between your teeth and your gums) may get into your bloodstream. And according to the researchers, inflammation increases the risk of atrial fibrillation as well as heart failure.
A 2017 YouGov poll suggests most people (59 per cent) in the UK brush twice daily, but almost three out of 10 (29 per cent) only brush their teeth once and one in 50 (two per cent) don’t brush at all on a typical day. Only eight per cent brush three times a day, which was the frequency in the Korean study found to be beneficial for heart health. So should we all be upping our dental health game?
“It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure,” says the study’s accompanying editorial.
Still not sure? Ask your dentist if you need to improve your oral hygiene (if you do they’ll tell you anyway).