Caries and cardiac trouble

06 June 2010


A large UK-based study has confirmed that not cleaning your teeth is a significant risk factor for having a heart attack.

Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush.Writing in the British Medical Journal, UCL researcher Richard Watt and his colleagues followed the fortunes (or not) of nearly 12,000 Scottish adults, including both men and women, who were recruited to study the link between poor oral hygiene and arterial disease.  After 8 years of follow up and 555 heart attacks later, analysis of the results shows that, irrespective of other risk factors, poor tooth-cleaning compliance results in a 70% increase in risk of suffering a coronary.

People who brushed less than twice a day, the team found, were 1.7 times more likely to have an arterial "event" than their more hygiene-conscious counterparts, a risk equivalent in scale to being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Chronic low-grade gum and peridontal inflammation is believed to be the "root" cause, which accelerates the process of arterial injury and blockage. And although the link between oral hygiene and heart attacks had been made previously, most of the studies that have been carried out in the past have involv d identally-diagnosed periodontal (gum) disease.

What this study shows is that the answer to the question, "how often do you brush your teeth?" can be used as a simple to administer yet highly significant predictor of heart disease during routine screening by medical practitioners.


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