Brush Your Teeth or Risk Heart Attack

The British Medical Journal reported on a study of  toothbrushing and found that people with poor oral hygiene had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.  We have known for the last two decades that inflammation plays an important role in atherosclerosis.  Markers of low grade inflammation like C reactive protein, are also shown to be higher in heart disease.

The Scottish Health researchers looked at the general population (n-11,869) and followed a large subset with questions about their oral health.  They asked about frequency of dentist visits, tooth brushing, and controlled for many co-variables such as general activity, hypertension, smoking, height and weight.  They also collected blood for studies of  C-reactive protein as a marker of inflammation.  They removed from the analysis 3685 participants who were edentulous (no natural teeth) and 386 with existing cardiovascular disease.

This elaborate and lengthy study showed that tooth brushing is associated with cardiovascular disease and subjects who brushed their teeth less than once a day had a 70% increase in heart disease compared with people who brushed twice a day.  The inflammation that periodontal disease causes, is directly related to increased C-reactive protein and increased heart attacks.

Leave it to the Scotts and the Brits to remind us to brush and floss every day.

BMJ 2010;340:c2451


Jim Purdy said…
I want to do a little more reading about this, because I'm very unclear about some important details. For instance, are the benefits caused by:

-- the stimulation of the gums? If so, should we eat coarse foods that might stimulate the gums, like apple skins, or Metamucil wafers?

-- the removal of bacteria? If so, would we accomplish that by using alcohol-based mouthwashes?

-- some chemicals in the toothpaste, like fluoride? If so, should we use fluoride-based mouthwashes?

Are the researches sure they have eliminated all confounding variables?

And, the really big question: Are these studies funded by toothpaste manufacturers? Research studies are always funded by somebody, often with a vested interest in the outcome.
Could it be that enthusiastic brushers are more likely to excercise, eat differently and pursue preventative health measures? It would seem that the brushers and flossers would be more health conscious and compliant overall.
alwaves said…
how often are we suppose to change our toothbrush?
I will brush my teeth properly everyday thanks for the information.
Uveal Blues said…
Loved your last line in the post :)
Kathy said…
I've been reading about this news, Dr. Brayer. We've always been constantly reminded of maintaining an honest-to-goodness oral hygiene. Just last week, my daughter and I visited our dentists (Jackson, TN). That's when I realized that we should encourage the kids about oral hygiene at an early age.

Now we've got another reason why we should brush our teeth at least twice a day. I never thought that brushing teeth has something to do with cardiac health. I'm gonna mention this to my Jackson, TN dentist.

And, I also love the last line.
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I think that's something obvious. It's all about hygiene and we can't ignore this report, specially if we're specialist in this issues. The Scottish Health and The British Medical Journal are the best and both of them are doing an important contribution. 23jj
sim so dep said…
Now we've got another reason why we should brush our teeth at least twice a day. I never thought that brushing teeth has something to do with cardiac health. I'm gonna mention this to
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