Brush Your Teeth to Protect Your Heart?
The unusual link between oral hygiene and risk for developing CVD – (Cardiovascular disease).
According to the NHS, upon turning 7 years of age, children across the globe are stripped of their birth right to have their parents polish their pearly whites and are taught to brush their own teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day.
Why is this? Good oral hygiene is a worthy goal in and of itself: it plays a key role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease, will keep your breath minty fresh and studies suggest it may even reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). Hold up - did I get that last part right?
How this works:
- Poor oral health makes you more susceptible to gum disease.
- Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It's mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up.
- In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn't clear up properly.
- The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.
It is important to note that oral health may be particularly important if you have artificial heart valves.
What the research says:
Taking care of your teeth isn't a proven way to prevent heart disease. Annoyingly, there is research to both support and refute the possible link between periodontal disease (gum disease) and cardiovascular disease, and more studies are needed to see how the two may be linked.
Regardless of the relationship, maintaining optimal oral hygiene is an important component of your overall health. You should do this by brushing your teeth twice a day and with the correct equipment (fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush). It is also recommended that you see your dentist for a check-up roughly every 6 months (may be more or less based on when your dentist suggests and how good your oral health is).
It is also important to note that many other factors contribute to your risk of developing CVD e.g. lifestyle factors such as: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or inactivity.
Therefore brushing your teeth alone cannot compensate for other poor lifestyle factors!
Sophia Sood Year 12, The Sixth Form College Farnborough
Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Publishing, H., 2007. Heart Disease And Oral Health: Role Of Oral Bacteria In Heart Plaque - Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at:
J. Salinas, D.D.S., T., n.d. Your Teeth And Your Heart: What's The Connection?. [online] Mayo Clinic. Available at:
Williams, R., Barnett, A., Claffey, N., Davis, M., Gadsby, R., Kellett, M., Lip, G. and Thackray, S., 2008. The potential impact of periodontal disease on general health: a consensus view. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 24(6), pp.1635-1643.