Frequent Toothbrushing Linked With Less Heart Failure

Dentistry Today


Frequent toothbrushing is frequently linked with lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure, according to researchers at the Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea. 

Previous research has suggested that poor oral hygiene leads to bacteria in the blood, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation increases the risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure. The researchers, then, examined the connection between oral hygiene and these conditions.

The retrospective cohort study enrolled 161,286 participants in the Korean National Health Insurance System aged 40 to 79 with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure. The subjects had a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004. Information about height, weight, laboratory tests, illnesses, lifestyle, oral health, and oral hygiene behaviors was collected.

During a medial follow-up of 10.5 years, 4,911 (3.0%) participants developed atrial fibrillation, and 7,971 (4.9%) developed heart failure. 

Toothbrushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure during a 10.5-year follow-up. The findings were independent of factors including age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities such as hypertension.

The study did not investigate mechanisms, but the researchers suggest that one possibility is that frequent toothbrushing reduces bacteria in the subgingival biofilm, preventing translocation to the bloodstream.

Senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song noted that the analysis was limited to one country and that the observational study does not prove causation.

“We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings,” Song said. 

The researchers noted that it is too early to recommend toothbrushing to prevent atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. But as the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease becomes more evident, they added, intervention studies are needed to define public health strategies.

The study, “Improved Oral Hygiene Care Is Associated With Decreased Risk of Occurrence for Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study,” was published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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