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home : news : national news free February 25, 2020

12/26/2019 10:06:00 AM
Regular tooth brushing could keep your heart healthy

DECATUR, Ill. — People who brush their teeth three times a day are less likely to develop atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) or heart failure than those with less frequent oral hygiene habits, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Korea examined data on more than 150,000 people with no history of atrial fibrillation, heart failure or other cardiovascular diseases. After following at least half of the group for over 10 years, those who brushed their teeth three times a day were 10% less likely to develop atrial fibrillation and 12% less likely to develop heart failure compared to those who brushed less consistently, the study found.

Getting regular professional dental cleanings was also tied to a lower risk of heart failure while having 22 or more missing teeth was linked to a 32% higher heart failure risk.

“It’s too early to suggest that good oral hygiene could prevent atrial fibrillation or heart failure,” said Emily Foster, an advanced practice nurse with Prairie Cardiovascular in Decatur, “but the results of the study are interesting and merit further investigation.”

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat in a rapid, disorganized fashion, resulting in an irregular and frequently fast heart rate.

When the heart’s atria are in AFib, they quiver instead of beating effectively. As a result, blood doesn’t move as well to the heart’s lower chambers. AFib can lead to the formation of clots that can cause a stroke. AFib currently affects more than 2.5 million Americans.

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle is too weak to pump enough blood through the body. Symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain from fluid retention, shortness of breath and coughing or wheezing.

Research suggests that poor oral hygiene may cause bacteria to seep into the bloodstream, provoking inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can increase the risk of both atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

Frequent tooth brushing is thought to reduce bacteria in the pocket between the teeth and gums, according to the study team, which could help prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream.

“Diet and exercise are known tools for maintaining a healthy heart. This new data suggests that oral hygiene could be added to the list as well,” Foster said.

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