Bad Brushing Habits – Linked to an Increased Risk of Heart Disease

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A new study suggests that brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Previous research has discovered a link between heart disease and periodontal disease, characterized by gum infection, gum inflammation, and tooth damage. The new study, which was presented Saturday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago, investigated whether a person’s toothbrushing habits were linked to their risk of having or dying from a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.

The researchers questioned 682 people about their toothbrushing habits. After controlling for other factors, they discovered that those who said they brushed less than twice a day for less than two minutes had a three-fold increased risk compared to those who said they brushed twice a day for more than two minutes.

According to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Shogo Matsui, “poor oral health, based on daily teeth-brushing behavior, is associated with” poorer heart health. Longer brushing may reduce this risk, but the new study was not designed to prove cause-and-effect, according to Matsui, a researcher at Hiroshima University’s Institute of Biomedical and Health Sciences.

According to Dr. Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the observational study had limitations.

“It’s possible that people who are very concerned about their dental health are also concerned about other aspects of their health,” said Bolger, who was not involved in the study.

Nonetheless, according to Bolger, science supports a possible link between dental health and heart health. Gum disease is one of the diseases “where the body may be in a sort of constant state of inflammation, and this appears to be a very powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease,” she explained.

A separate study published last month in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension discovered that gum disease appears to worsen blood pressure and interferes with hypertension medications.

People with heart valve problems are also at risk, according to Bolger.

“I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to (heart valve patients) about their teeth because we know that certain heart valve infections are linked to poor oral health,” she explained. This new study “reminds us that the mouth is an important part of a person’s overall health and that simple, daily behaviors that improve health are incredibly important.”

Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste is recommended by the American Dental Association.

“It’s a low-risk, low-cost option that we know has other benefits that go beyond the scope of this study,” Bolger said. “There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be recommended.”


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