Science-- there's something for everyone

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brush your teeth for better heart health

Because inflammation has long been correlated with heart disease, doctors have suspected a link between poor oral hygiene, which often leads to inflammation of the mouth and gums, and cardiovascular disease. Richard Watt and his team from University College London have now documented such a link.

The researchers followed just under 5000 patients over a period of about eight years. The subjects were tested for cardiovascular health and questioned about oral hygiene habits. Those patients who self-reported rarely or never brushing their teeth had 70% more heart disease than those who said they brushed twice a day. While that’s a huge difference, remember, only a subset of patients had heart attacks during the study. The overall risk of heart disease increased from 4.2% to 7.1% for the non-brushers. So not brushing your teeth isn't a death sentence, except maybe for your social life.

The doctors aren’t sure why oral health is so tightly connected to heart health, although they suspect that the inflammation of untended gums plays an important role. The levels of C reactive protein and of fibrinogen, both of which are markers for heart disease, also increased in the non-brushing individuals.