Written by: Cameron Rosario
Medically reviewed by: Robert Philibert MD PhD
Brushing your teeth in the morning and night has been a ritual that has been ingrained in our heads to avoid cavities and gum disease. Although doing so can help you maintain a healthy mouth, some studies have shown that brushing your teeth can potentially also protect your heart health.
The Connection Between Oral Health And Heart Disease
The correlation between heart health and oral health remains to be a topic of investigation. Several studies have shown a correlation between the two, while other studies found no correlation.
A study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session meeting in Chicago looked at whether a person’s tooth brushing habits were associated with their risk of dying from a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
The researchers of the study surveyed 682 individuals about their toothbrushing behavior. The study concluded that brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes may lower the risk for cardiovascular disease. Specifically, those who said they brushed for less than two minutes twice daily had a three-fold increased risk compared to those who said they met or exceeded the two minute mark twice a day.
Despite these findings, Dr. Ann Bolger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, noted some potential limitations to the findings. She noted that individuals who are attentive in their oral health may also be attentive in other aspects of their health, thus accounting for the findings.
Furthermore, a study conducted in 2010 investigated whether invasive treatments for periodontal disease have short-term effects on an individual’s risk for vascular events. The study examined patients who underwent invasive dental treatment and were diagnosed with an ischemic stroke or heart attack between the years 2002 to 2006. Their study found that following the dental treatment, the rate of vascular events increased significantly in the first 4 weeks and returned to a baseline rate after within 6 months. Even after exclusion of individuals with known disease, the positive association remained, leading to a conclusion that individuals may have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease following invasive treatments for periodontal disease.
In contrast, a study published in 2018 did not find differences between invasive dental treatments and short-term risk of ischemic stroke and heart attacks. In this nationwide population-based study, 123,819 heart attack and 327,179 ischemic stroke patients were included in a case-crossover design and 117,655 heart attack and 298,757 ischemic stroke patients were included in the self-controlled case series design. Both studies concluded that there is no association between invasive dental treatment and short-term risk of heart attacks and ischemic stroke. Despite the negative findings, the authors of the studies suggested that the long-term risk remains to be investigated.
Maintaining a Healthy Oral and Heart Health
Regardless of whether there is an association or not, you should always be maintaining healthy oral health habits and monitoring your risk for heart disease. Below are some tips to maintain healthy oral and heart health:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily.
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush and replace it every 3 months.
- Use dental products that include the key ingredient, fluoride.
- Floss to reach areas once a day.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings at least every 6 months.
- Exercise regularly for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.
- Eat heart healthy foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins.
- Avoid or quit smoking.
- Regularly check with your primary care physician to assess your risk.
Though the relationship between heart disease and oral health is under investigation, taking the necessary steps to care for both your heart and oral health is beneficial. If you are concerned regarding heart disease prevention, make sure to ask your doctor about ways to reduce your or a loved one’s risk.
- American Heart Association News. (2018, Nov.). Bad toothbrushing habits tied to higher heart risk. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/07/bad-tooth-brushing-habits-tied-to-higher-heart-risk
- Berry, J., & Frank, C. (2019, May). What to do for healthy teeth and gums. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324708#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
- Chen, T.T., D’Aluto, F., Yeh, Y.C., Lai, M.S., Chien, K.L., & Tu, Y.K. (2018, Oct.). Risk of Myocardial Infarction and Ischemic Stroke after Dental Treatments. J. Dent Res, 98(2), 157-163. doi: 10.1177/0022034518805745.
- Minassian, C., D’Aiuto, F., Hingorani, A. D., & Smeeth, L. (2010, Oct). Invasive dental treatment and risk for vascular events: a self-controlled case series. Ann Intern Med., 153(8), 499-506. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-8-201010190-00006
- Salinas, T. J. (2020, Nov.). Will taking care of my teeth help prevent heart disease? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/heart-disease-prevention/faq-20057986