We have talked many times about how your oral health is closely linked to your general health. In particular, we’ve talked about how gum disease has been linked to heart problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
However, it’s only recently that we’ve established that this link is causative. We now know that if you have gum disease, it can contribute to heart problems. If you don’t take care of your gums, it can increase your risk of heart problems.
However, we haven’t had good evidence of the opposite: that taking care of your teeth and gums can reduce heart risks. That is, until now. Now a new large study shows that you can reduce your heart risks just by brushing your teeth and making your regular dental visits.
Researchers in Korea performed this study using over 161,000 subjects. The National Health Insurance System performed the screening of these and many other subjects, but researchers selected only subjects who had complete data that would allow accurate analysis.
They followed patients for an average of 10.5 years, recording nearly 5000 atrial fibrillations and nearly 8000 heart failures. They then performed a comprehensive analysis of the subjects to see if they could link oral hygiene and dental visits to these heart problems. To make their data accurate, they corrected for more than a dozen heart health factors, including age, sex, exercise, BMI, smoking habits, blood pressure, and the results of blood and urine tests.
When they compared risks, they then found that brushing teeth three or more times a day reduced the risk of heart problems. It reduced the risk of atrial fibrillation by about 10% and heart failure even more, about 12%. Professional dental cleanings also reduced heart failure risks by 7%.
However, the biggest impact wasn’t related to reduced risk: missing 22 or more teeth increased the risk of heart failure by about 32%. Since gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, this seems like more strong evidence of the link between heart disease and gum disease.
Although this is only a single study, its results demand attention. The size of the population considered lends credibility to the results. The completeness of the data also makes it more credible. However, we do have to note that the corrections are also an opportunity to introduce errors. If corrective factors used don’t reflect true risk, they might skew the results.
Still, this study gives us strong evidence that taking care of your teeth can protect your heart.
Are you taking steps to protect your heart, such as losing weight, getting more exercise, and cutting carbs? If so, then maybe it’s time to add one more protective strategy: taking care of your teeth. After all, brushing your teeth can reduce your heart risk by as much as adding a three mile walk each week.
If you are looking for a partner to help you take care of your teeth and your overall health in Tulsa, please call (918) 528-3330 today for an appointment with dentist Dr. Meghan Hodges at élan.