Bloomberg News

Professionally Cleaned Teeth May Be Weapon Against Heart Disease

November 17, 2011

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Yearly teeth-cleaning at the dentist’s office may cut the risk of heart attack by as much as 24 percent compared with those who avoid the treatment, Taiwanese researchers found.

Those who had their teeth scraped and polished by a dentist or dental hygienist also had a 13 percent lower risk of stroke than those who never had their teeth cleaned, the study found. The research will be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Teeth cleaning lowers bacteria in the mouth that can cause chronic inflammation, said study author Zu-Yin Chen, a cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan. Inflammation is associated with the formation of plaque in the blood vessels and hardening of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke, she said.

“Oral hygiene is very important and we should all help to teach the correct way to maintain oral health,” said Chen, a cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, in a Nov. 11 e-mail.

Today’s findings are the first to show that regular teeth cleaning helps lower a person’s risk of heart attacks and stroke, she said. More studies, however, are needed to help explain how tooth scaling improves heart and blood vessel function and to see whether it also lowers the risk of other illnesses like cancer and immune diseases, she said.

Dental Records

Researchers in the study looked at the records of 102,620 patients who didn’t have a history of heart attack or stroke. They were followed for about seven years.

In the study, 226 out of 51,108 people who had their teeth cleaned at least once suffered a heart attack, while 1,168 had a stroke. In the group that never had their teeth cleaned, 507 out of 51,512 had a heart attack and 2,480 suffered a stroke, Chen said.

The researchers found that those who had their teeth cleaned more than once every two years had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 13 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with those who never had their teeth cleaned. People who had a cleaning less than once every two years had a 13 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 9 percent reduced risk of a stroke compared with those who never had one, Chen said.

“What surprised us was that your risk for heart attacks and stroke was even lower when you had at least one tooth scaling per year,” she said. “Your teeth are important, too, so take good care of them.”

Swedish Gum Disease Study

In a separate study, Swedish researchers found that gum disease can help predict heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke risk.

The study of 7,999 people with periodontal disease found that those with fewer than 21 teeth had a 69 percent increased risk of heart attack than those who had the most teeth. An adult mouth typically holds 32 permanent teeth. Those with a higher number of gum infections around the base of the tooth had a 53 percent higher risk of heart attack than those with fewer infected pockets.

Fewer teeth also corresponded to an increased risk of congestive heart failure while more incidents of gum bleeding correlated to a higher likelihood of stroke, the study showed.

The Swedish findings will be presented on Wednesday at the heart meeting.

--Editors: Angela Zimm, Chris Staiti

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at nostrow1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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