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Brushing your teeth twice a day may keep the heart doctor away; People who seldom brush are more likely to have heart disease.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

PEOPLE who do not brush their teeth twice a day could be at greater risk of developing heart disease, research reveals today.

A link between gum disease and heart problems has been known for some time, but experts have now measured the impact of daily brushing.

A new study, published in the BMJ, found people who never or rarely brush their teeth are 70% more likely to suffer heart disease as those who brush twice a day.

But the researchers stressed the overall risk of heart disease from poor oral hygiene remains quite low.

The University College London analysed data from more than 11,000 people, with an average age of 50, who took part in the Scottish Health Survey.

They examined people's brushing habits and their lifestyles, including whether they smoked or took exercise - both risk factors for heart disease.

People were asked how often they visited their dentist and how often they brushed their teeth - whether it was twice a day, once a day or less than once a day.

Separate details were collected on people's medical histories, blood pressure, and their family's history of heart disease.

Blood samples were also taken to measure markers of inflammation in the blood.

Just over six out of 10 (62%) people visited their dentist every six months while 71% said they brushed their teeth twice a day.

During eight years of follow-up study, there were 555 cases of serious heart problems, mostly caused by heart disease, including heart attacks. Of these, 170 were fatal.

The experts found people who never or rarely brushed their teeth were 70% more likely to suffer heart disease than those who brushed twice a day.

This was true even when factors likely to influence the results - such as obesity and smoking - were taken into account.

Professor Richard Watt, author of the research, said: "Our results confirmed and further strengthened the suggested association between oral hygiene and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Furthermore, inflammatory markers were significantly associated with a very simple measure of poor oral health behaviour.

"Future experimental studies will be needed to confirm whether the observed association between oral health behaviour and cardiovascular disease is in fact causal or merely a risk marker."

Judy O'Sullivan, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "If you don't brush your teeth, your mouth can become infected with bacteria which can cause inflammation.

"It is already known that there is a link between inflammation and a higher risk of developing heart disease.

"However, it is complicated by the fact that poor oral hygiene is often associated with other well-known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and poor diet.

"Good personal hygiene is a basic element of a healthy lifestyle.

"But if you want to help your heart, you should eat a balanced diet, avoid smoking and take part in regular physical activity."

Dr Paul Langmaid, chief dental officer for Wales, said: "While we cannot comment on research that we have not seen and had an opportunity to study in detail, we have long known the benefits of brushing teeth thoroughly for at least two minutes twice a day using a toothpaste containing fluoride.

"The regular removal of dental plaque - a sticky biofilm containing bacteria some of which are pathogenic - that builds up around teeth and gums will reduce the likelihood of gum disease or gingivitis, which affects well over 50% of the adult population.

"In addition to possible links between heart disease and gum disease found in the Scottish Health Survey, other studies appear to confirm a link between gum disease and diabetes, where patients with type 2 diabetes and inflammation in the mouth caused by bacterial plaque had more difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels."

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DENTAL HYGIENE: In addition to possible links between gum disease and heart disease, there may also be links to diabetes
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 28, 2010
Words:648
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