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Brushing your teeth three times a day could keep your heart healthy

Yahoo! Style UK logo Yahoo! Style UK 3 days ago Alexandra Thompson
a close up of a plastic toothbrush in a cup: Toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom close up. Toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom close up.

Brushing your teeth could help keep your heart healthy, research suggests.

Scientists from Ewha Womans University in Seoul analysed the dental habits of more than 161,000 people over 10 years.

They found those who brushed their teeth at least three times a day were 12% less likely to suffer heart failure (HF), when the organ fails to pump blood around the body as effectively as it should.

Poor oral hygiene may allow “bad bacteria” in the mouth to enter the blood via the gums. This could trigger inflammation that affects heart health.

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HF affects 200,000 new people every year in the UK, British Heart Foundation (BHF) statistics show.

In the US, around 5.7 million adults suffer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Left untreated, sufferers can become so breathless and fatigued their day-to-day activities are “severely limited”, NHS reports. In severe cases, it can even be fatal.

Poor oral hygiene has been linked to impaired heart health before, however, it was unclear why.

Inflammation was one theory, while some claimed those who fail to look after their teeth may neglect other aspects of their wellbeing, like diet and exercise.

To learn more, the scientists looked at thousands of participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System. At the start of the study, they were aged 40-to-79 and healthy.

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Over 10.5 years, 4.9% of the participants developed HF and 3% had atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF occurs when the electrical impulses that cause that heart to beat go awry, leading to an irregular heart rate. This raises the risk of blood clots and stroke, according to Stroke Association UK.

It affects 1.2 million people in the UK and up to 6.1 million in the US, statistics show.

Results, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, reveal those who brushed their teeth at least three times a day were 12% less likely to develop HF and 10% less likely to have AF.

This remained true after the scientists adjusted for factors like weight, exercise, alcohol consumption and blood pressure.

“We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings,” study author Dr Tae-Jin Song said.

READ MORE: 7 signs you’re having a heart attack

The scientists did not look for the cause of these events but believe frequent tooth brushing could reduce bacteria in the “subgingival biofilm”, the pocket between teeth and gums that allows bugs entry into the bloodstream.

They stress, however, maintaining good oral hygiene may not be enough to ward off cardiovascular disease.

Writing in an accompanying editorial, they said: “It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

“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.”

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