Brushing your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the Institute of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University, Japan. While previous studies have found a link between heart disease and periodontal disease, the new research looked at whether brushing habits were associated with any risk of having or dying from a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
The researchers asked 682 people about their tooth-brushing behavior. After adjusting for various factors, they found that those who said they brushed less than twice a day for less than two minutes had a threefold increased risk compared to those who said they brushed at least twice a day for at least two minutes.
Dr. Shogo Matsui, the study’s lead researcher, said the findings suggest “poor oral health, based on daily teeth-brushing behavior, is associated with” poorer heart health. It’s possible that longer tooth brushing might reduce this risk, but the new study was not designed to prove cause and effect, Matsui explained. Dr. Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed that the study had limitations.
“It is possible that people who are very attentive to their dental health are also very attentive to other aspects of their health,” said Bolger.
Even so, Bolger said the science supports a potential connection between dental health and heart health. Gum disease is one of the diseases “where the body may be in a sort of continual state of inflammation, and this seems to be a very powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease,” she said, adding that poor dental health also poses a risk to people with heart valve problems.
“I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to (heart valve patients) about their teeth because we know certain heart valve infections can be associated with poor oral health,” she said. This latest research “is a good reminder that the mouth is an important part of a person’s entire health and simple, daily behaviors that improve health are incredibly important.”
The ADA recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
“It’s a low-risk, low-cost option that we know has other benefits even beyond the scope of what this study is trying to investigate,” Bolger said. “There’s no reason not to recommend someone do this.”