Brushing Your Teeth This Many Times a Day Could Protect You From Heart Failure

Brushing our teeth might not only save us from trips to the dentist but could also protect us from heart failure, according to research.

The study involved 161,286 people in Korea who had no history of heart problems. The participants had a routine medical examination—including a tooth check—and were asked questions about their oral hygiene. After around 10 years, the team followed up with the participants to see if they had developed heart problems.

Brushing one's teeth at least three times a day was linked with a 12 percent lower risk of heart failure, and 10 percent lower chance of developing atrial fibrillation, which can cause the organ to beat irregularly and abnormally fast. These findings remained even when the scientists factored in variables like how much the participants exercised and drank, and other problems which affect heart health like high blood pressure.

The team aren't sure what lies behind the association, but they think the habit could reduce the numbers of bacteria living in the gaps between the teeth and gums, preventing them from getting into the bloodstream. The findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea, told Newsweek: "Atrial fibrillation and heart failure are major cardiovascular problems. However, to date, little is known about the risk factors or association factors of atrial fibrillation and heart failure and the factors that can prevent them."

"Efforts to improve oral hygiene, including tooth brushing, will reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Therefore, the importance of taking good care of oral health can be reaffirmed through the results of this study," Song said.

However, Song acknowledged the study was limited because it was based on one population.

In an editorial published in the European Journal of Preventive, experts who didn't work on the paper praised the researchers for using a big sample size, and following up with participants after a relatively long period of time.

teeth, brushing teeth, dentist, health, stock, getty
A stock image shows a man brushing his teeth. Scientists believe it could protect the heart. Getty

However, Pascal Meyre of Switzerland's Cardiovascular Research Institute Basel at University Hospital Basel, and David Conen of Canda's Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, also wrote the study doesn't prove that brushing teeth prevents heart disease.

"It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of AF [atrial fibrillation] and CHF [heart failure]," they said. "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."

Earlier this year, a separate team of scientists concluded our outlook on life could also protect our hearts.

The study published in the journal JAMA Network suggested a positive attitude could prevent heart disease, and lower the risk of dying prematurely.