Improved Dental Hygiene Helps Heart Health

A new study suggests that improved dental health was associated with a decreased risk for heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

The retrospective cohort study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, included more than 161,000 subjects from the National Health Insurance System-Health Screening Cohort. Subjects had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, or cardiac valvular diseases. Oral hygiene indicators included the presence of periodontal disease, number of tooth brushing, any reasons of dental visit, professional dental cleaning, and the number of teeth missing. Median follow-up was 10.5 years.

According to the results, 4,911 (3.0%) of participants developed atrial fibrillation and 7,791 (4.9%) developed heart failure during follow-up. Brushing teeth three or more times per day was associated with a 10% reduction in risk for atrial fibrillation, and a 12% risk reduction for developing heart failure. These associations were independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities.

“Improved oral hygiene care was associated with decreased risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure,” the authors wrote. “Healthier oral hygiene by frequent tooth brushing and professional dental cleaning may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.”

Limitations of the study, according to senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song, of Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea, included the observational analysis being limited to one country. He added in a press release, however, that studying a large group over a long period of time added to the strength of the group’s findings.

“It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure,” an accompanying editorial read. “While the role of inflammation in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is becoming more and more evident, intervention studies are needed to define strategies of public health importance.”