Clean teeth make more of an impression on heart health than you might realize. It might seem odd to tell your child that cleaning his/her teeth is good for his heart, but recent studies prove it.
“Brushing teeth frequently is linked with lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure, according to a new study.”
The connection between heart health, dental health and bacteria has been long established. No one knows this more than our special needs children and their parents.
Your Clean Teeth and Your Healthy Heart: The Secret Connection
This month has been designated heart month, not only by St. Valentine but also by the American Heart Association. Thus, we thought this heart study would be the perfect topic for this week. And otherwise, you might never know about the secret connection clean teeth have with your heart.
Amazing Facts Heart Specialists Know About Tooth Brushing
Research scientists have frequently noticed that patients who brush their teeth frequently have lower risks of two major heart conditions: atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
A large research study of this phenomenon was studied in detail and recently published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Let’s take a look at the correlation between brushing your teeth and having a healthy heart. You might discover something new about clean teeth and a happy heart rhythm.
Clean Teeth vs. Dirty Teeth and Healthy Hearts: The Connection
In previous years scientists saw that poor oral hygiene can lead to bacteria in the blood. And researchers saw a vicious cycle:
1. Dirty teeth made the bacteria that got in the blood.
2. There it caused inflammation in the body.
3. The inflammation is the factor that raises the risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat.)
4. This can finally lead to heart failure. Heart failure is defined as the heart’s ability to pump blood or relax and fill with blood.
Delving Deeper into Healthy Teeth and Healthy Hearts: By Experiment
Who could have guessed such a simple factor as clean teeth could have a strong influence on the health and welfare of the heart?
The newest study scientifically examined the connection between oral hygiene habits, clean teeth, and atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
A Massive Scientific Research Study: Teeth and Hearts
The scientists enrolled 161,286 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System in the research study. They were ages 40 to 79. Note that none of them had any history of atrial fibrillation. Likewise, none of them had heart failure history.
Clean Teeth Begin at an Early Age: From Our Point of View
At this point, you might wonder why we would be so interested in this study since children are our specialty at Dentistry for Children. Well, we believe, brushing, flossing and good oral hygiene are learned in childhood between ages 1-5. And if the value of clean teeth is neglected in the early years, adults continue to neglect their teeth throughout their lives.
Collecting the Data: Procedure in the Experiment
Between 2003 and 2004, a massive amount of data was collected. Scientists collected the facts on:
- height and weight,
- laboratory tests and illnesses,
- lifestyle and oral health,
Then, they traced and documented their oral hygiene behaviors. After compiling all the data, all they had to do was wait. Time marched by. Some brushed and treasured clean teeth. Some did not.
Procedure and Follow-up: Clean Teeth and Healthy Hearts
10.5 years later, the patient scientists added up some interesting results.
- 4,911 (or 3.0%) of the research group participants had developed atrial fibrillation.
- Likewise, 7,971 (or 4.9%) of the research group participants had developed heart failure.
Clean Teeth and Lower Heart Risk: Relationship Revealed
The research scientists discovered that “Tooth brushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation…”
Even more impressive, people who had brushed three or more times a day showed, “…a 12% lower risk of heart failure during 10.5-year follow up.”
Apparently clean teeth pay off in a number of healthy ways.
More Surprising Discoveries
The research findings did not depend on a number of factors we might have expected. The results were simply not influenced by “age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities such as hypertension.”
The point of the study was not to investigate mechanisms, but only to observe. However, scientists could not help but observe an important possibility:
If you have clean teeth, you reduce the bacteria in the subgingival biofilm. This refers to the bacteria which live in the deep pockets between your teeth and gums. The scientists deduced that the dedicated tooth brushing, flossing, and cleaning, prevented the translocation of bacteria to the bloodstream. The obvious benefit was a healthier heart.
Clean Teeth and Healthy Hearts Need More Study
Senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Woman’s University, Seoul, Korea was well aware that the research was limited to only one country, which weakened their findings. However, the scientists did study a big group for a long time, which made their findings strong. They did not pretend that they had proven solid causation, just observation. “We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings.”
They stated, “It is certainly too early to recommend toothbrushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.” And they hedged their deductions by recommending more study. Thus, they added, “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.”
Toothy Take-Aways from Clean Teeth and Healthy Hearts
Even though we need more studies such as this one, there could be no harm in keeping extra clean teeth. An extra brushing or extra flossing that just might keep our hearts healthier could be a good idea. It would not take much time and it could even feel good.
How about Getting Clean Teeth After Lunch?
So, perhaps we should be packing a little toothbrush and some toothpaste in that lunchbox, backpack, desk drawer or designer purse. It’s just an idea. Three times a day could stave off heart disease—who knew? We certainly will keep up with this investigative story and inform you of any new research studies in this area.
Thank you for reading our blog at Dentistry for Children. And please excuse this blogger now; she has a sudden urge to brush her teeth an extra time today. And Happy Heart Health Month to All, from the doctor and all the staff at Dentistry for Children.