Frequent Tooth Brushing Linked With Lower Risk of Afib, Heart Failure

By Lisa Rapaport

December 09, 2019

(Reuters Health) - People who brush their teeth three times a day are less likely to develop atrial fibrillation or heart failure than those with less consistent oral hygiene habits, a Korean study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 161,286 people with national health coverage and no history of atrial fibrillation, heart failure or other cardiovascular diseases. After a median follow-up of close to 10.5 years, 4,911 people (3%) developed atrial fibrillation and 7,971 (4.9%) developed heart failure.

Individuals who brushed their teeth three times a day were 10% less likely to develop atrial fibrillation and 12% less likely to develop heart failure than those who brushed less frequently, the study found.

Getting regular professional dental cleanings was also tied to a 7% lower risk of heart failure, while having 22 or more missing teeth was linked to a 32% higher heart failure risk.

"Healthier oral hygiene by frequent tooth brushing and professional dental cleaning may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure," senior study author Dr. Tae-Jin Song, of Ewha Womans University College of Medicine in Seoul, and colleagues write in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Some previous research suggests that poor oral hygiene may cause bacteria to seep into the bloodstream, provoking inflammation throughout the body, the study team writes.

It's possible that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria in the subgingival biofilm, the study team writes. This might reduce the amount of bacteria entering the bloodstream.

In the current study, participants had at least one routine medical exam between 2003 and 2004. Among other things, researchers gathered data on height, weight, lifestyle habits, any chronic medical issues, and oral health and hygiene habits.

The connection between tooth brushing and atrial fibrillation and heart failure persisted even after researchers accounted for age, sex, socioeconomic status, exercise habits, alcohol consumption, obesity and high blood pressure.

The study wasn't designed to prove whether or how oral health or tooth brushing habits might directly impact heart health. And results in the Korean population might not represent what would occur in other countries or racial and ethnic groups, the study team notes.

Researchers also lacked lab studies to confirm the diagnoses of atrial fibrillation or heart failure, and they didn't dental X-rays to confirm periodontal disease.

Even so, the results add to evidence linking poor oral hygiene to cardiovascular diseases, Dr. Pascal Meyre of University Hospital Basel in Switzerland and Dr. David Conen of McMaster University in Canada write in an editorial.

"It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure," Meyre and Conen write. "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."

SOURCE: and European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, online December 1, 2019.