Brushing teeth frequently is linked with lower risks of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Previous research suggests 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. This study examined the connection between oral hygiene and occurrence of these two conditions.
The enrolled 161,286 participants from the Korean National Health Insurance System aged 40-79 with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure. Participants underwent a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004. Information was collected on height, weight, laboratory tests, illnesses, lifestyle, oral health, and oral hygiene behaviours.
During a follow-up 10.5 years later, 4,911 (3%) participants developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 (4.9%) developed heart failure.
Tooth brushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure. While the study did not investigate mechanisms, one possibility is that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria in the pocket between the teeth and gums, thereby preventing translocation to the bloodstream.
Senior author Dr Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea noted that as an observational study, it does not prove causation. An accompanying editorial states: “It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.”