A Heart Healthy Tip That Will Make You Smile

February 25, 2020

ThedaCare Cardiothoracic Surgeon Explains the Connection between Heart Health and Healthy Teeth

APPLETON, Wis. – New research shows the latest benefit of frequent teeth brushing: A significantly reduced risk of cardiac conditions that impact millions of Americans.

A study recently published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology concludes there is a likely link between improved oral hygiene and a decreased risk of heart disease. The study notes “healthier oral hygiene by frequent tooth brushing and professional dental cleaning may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and heart failure.” Researchers quantified their results noting tooth brushing three or more times a day was linked with lowering your chances of developing AFib by 10 percent and reducing your risk of heart failure by 12 percent.

“Those are significant findings,” said Dr. Salvior Mok, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care. “It can give heart patients and those at risk of heart disease new hope.”

Dr. Mok has long believed routine tooth brushing is a good habit for people concerned with their heart health.

“It’s a non-medicated way to prevent and possibly better control heart disease,” she said. “Doctors have known that the bacteria in our mouths matters in maintaining our health. Too much or little may alter our health for better or worse.”

There have been links made between oral hygiene and other diseases such as pancreatic and esophageal cancers and respiratory conditions. There has also been an established connection with oral health and cardiovascular health.

  • One study found a connection with oral bacteria, blood clots and stroke, and additional research shows severe gum disease could lead to a significantly higher risk of hypertension.
  • Another study revealed removing good oral bacteria from the mouth could impact blood pressure levels and even lead to hypertension.

At least 2.7 million Americans have AFib, an irregular heartbeat that could lead to blood clots, stroke, and other heart-related complications. Similarly, heart failure is an inefficiently pumping heart, which results in fatigue, shortness of breath and coughing. More than 5.8 million people live with the condition in the U.S.

“These are two serious heart conditions that are normally managed with medication,” Dr. Mok said. “This new research and additional evidence confirm the benefits of brushing your teeth often and how a simple daily habit can make all the difference with your heart health.”

The findings of this latest research were the result of scientists examining data from more than 161,000 people who were part of a Korean health screening cohort. Participants ranged in age from 40 to 79 years old and had no history of either AFib or heart failure. After about 10 years, follow-up exams showed nearly 5,000 people developed AFib and almost 8,000 people were diagnosed with heart failure. Researchers noticed a pattern in oral hygiene and noted that “poor oral hygiene can provoke transient bacteremia and systemic inflammation, a mediator of atrial fibrillation and heart failure."

Still, researchers say more study needs to be done.

“It is never too early to start a good oral hygiene habit,” explained Dr. Mok. “People at risk for heart disease especially should feel empowered by these findings. They should consider increasing how often they brush their teeth each day. It’s just another way to be good to your heart and overall body.”