Brushing Teeth Lowers Risk of Heart Failure, Atrial Fibrillation: Study
Sat, April 10, 2021

Brushing Teeth Lowers Risk of Heart Failure, Atrial Fibrillation: Study

Brushing your teeth is important not just for your dental care, but also for your heart / Photo by: aragorik via Shutterstock

 

Brushing your teeth is important not just for your dental care, but also for your heart. A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reveals that brushing one's teeth frequently lowers one’s risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

The Connection Between Oral Hygiene and Heart Failure

Previous studies have revealed that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and may cause problems by mimicking the human protein fibrinogen. It can also cause inflammation in the body, which increases the risk of an irregular heartbeat and impaired ability of the heart to pump blood and relax and fill it again with blood.

In a new study conducted by senior author Dr. Tae-Jin from Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, their team of researchers examined the connection between the occurrence of the two heart conditions and oral hygiene. 

The team used the record of 161,286 participants enrolled in the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). These people, aged 40 to 79, had no history of heart failure or atrial fibrillation. They also underwent a regular medical examination between 2003 and 2004. Data about their oral hygiene behaviors, oral health, lifestyle, illness, laboratory tests, weight, and height were also collected. Information on alcohol consumption and smoking habits was obtained by the team through a questionnaire. To determine the participants' oral health, they were examined by dentists as a part of their routine health check-up.

In Korea, the NHIS is the only insurance provider and is supported and controlled by the Korean government. About 97% of the Korean population is covered by the NHIS, the group said.

During a 10.5-year median follow-up, a total of 4.911 or 3.0% of the participants developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 or 4.9% developed heart failure. AFib refers to the irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, heart failure, stroke, and other heart-related complications.

Previous studies have revealed that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and may cause problems by mimicking the human protein fibrinogen / Photo by: Pixel-Shot via Shutterstock

 

Findings

The Korean researchers found that tooth brushing three or more times a day lowers a person’s risk of heart failure by 12% and atrial fibrillation by 10% during their median follow-up. This was also not dependent on factors, such as regular exercise, body mass index, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, sex, comorbidities (simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions), and age. Professional dental cleaning was also linked with a reduced risk of heart failure (HF) occurrence.

Dr. Song noted that their findings were limited to one nation only and do not necessarily prove causation. It could not be generalized to other ethnicities, they wrote. It is too early to suggest tooth brushing to prevent congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, yet there is strength in their findings because they studied a large group for a long period.

Other researchers include Yoonkyung Chang from the Department of Neurology of Mokdong Hospital, Ho Geol Woo from the Department of Neurology of Seoul Hospital, Jin Park from the Department of Critical Care Medicine, and Ji Sung Lee from the Clinical Research Center of the Asan Institute for Life Sciences.

The American Heart Association, a group that has been fighting heart disease and stroke for nearly 100 years, likewise shared an earlier study conducted by Dr. Shogo Matsui and colleagues. Their study suggested that poor oral health is linked to poorer heart health. They believe that people who are attentive to their dental health are similarly very attentive to other aspects of their health.

Oral health: Statistics

The FDI World Dental Federation, the world’s leading organization representing the dental profession, stated that oral conditions are the fourth most expensive to treat. In the US alone, US$110 billion is spent every year on oral healthcare. In the EU, yearly spending on oral healthcare amounted to €79 billion. The risk factors for oral disease include tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, harmful alcohol use, and unhealthy diet. Furthermore, oral disease affects an estimated 3.9 billion people in the world, including those with untreated tooth decay that affects 44% of the world’s population.

Nearly 100% of adults and between 60 to 90% of schoolchildren globally have tooth decay, which leads to discomfort and pain. Excessive consumption of sugars from snacks, drinks, and processed foods causes worldwide increases in cardiovascular disease, oral diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support the teeth, was the 11th most prevalent disease worldwide in 2016, the World Health Organization said. Dental treatment can be expensive, averaging 20% out-of-pocket health expenses and 5% total health expenses in most high-income countries.

AFib

The leading national public health institute of the US, the Centers for Disease Control, also shared that AFib or atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia, wherein the heart beats too fast, too slowly, or in an irregular way. An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the US have AFib. The number is expected to grow with the aging population. About 2% of people who are younger than 65 have AFib along with 9% of people who are 65 years old or older. The reason for this is that AFib increases with age. The common AFib symptoms include irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, and heart palpitations (pounding, fluttering, or rapid).