Brush Your Teeth, Help Your Heart
Healthy Gums Could Help Dodge Heart Disease
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 7, 2005 -- Brushing your teeth could help you avoid heart disease. Having clean teeth and healthy gums may cut your chances of atherosclerosis.
That could make your toothbrush a weapon against heart disease and stroke. Keep that in mind as you get ready to celebrate matters of the heart this Valentine's Day.
Gingivitis is an infection of the gums usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Gums become inflamed, swollen, and bleed. Bacteria within plaque (which forms on teeth) lead to chronic inflammation of the gum line and tooth loss. Chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Every day, an estimated 2,600 people in the U.S. die of heart disease, says the American Heart Association. That's an average of one death every 34 seconds. Every 45 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke - or about 700,000 people this year.
Heart attack and stroke can strike anyone. Each year, heart disease kills 150,000 people younger than 65, says the AHA.
The new study was conducted by Moise Desvarieux, MD, PhD, and colleagues. It appears in the Feb. 8 issue of the journal Circulation.
Previous research has also found that brushing, flossing, and taking care of your teeth and gums is good for your heart. But those studies examined topics like tooth loss, and not the mouth's bacteria, say the researchers.
Participants were 657 Hispanic, black, or white New Yorkers. All were at least 55 years old. None had suffered a stroke, heart attack, or chronic inflammatory condition. To ensure economic diversity, subjects were enrolled from five zip codes in northern Manhattan.
Participants kept records of tooth brushing and flossing during the study, and their mouths were examined. They reported smoking and physical activity habits, and had blood samples taken for measurements of inflammation.
The participants' blood vessel wall thickness was also measured. The thickness of the carotid artery wall -- the neck's major artery -- is used as a measure of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown this to be associated with coronary heart disease and stroke risk.