Oral health safeguards against heart diseases

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According to a new study, old people who are particular about dental hygiene are likely to be free from heart attack or stroke in comparison to their peers who are less concerned about their oral hygiene.

Around 22,000 Taiwanese adults aged around 50 took part in the survey. Results suggested that people who had a professional tooth “scaling” during the past 12 months were less likely to suffer from any heart ailments for the next seven years.

Tooth scaling is mainly a deep cleansing method that involves removal of the “plaques” that build up on the teeth by making space for themselves between tooth pockets within the gum line. The plaques formed ultimately resulted into bacteria formation which leads to gum diseases.

Dr. Zu-Yin Chen, a cardiology fellow at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan, says gum disease caused by bacterial infection may contribute to heart attacks or stroke by causing a chronic state of inflammation in blood vessels.

The Taiwanese researched insisted that treating gum disease can cut the levels of inflammatory substances in the blood.

However, it is still not sure whether frequent visits to the dentist for oral hygiene are one of the best preventions for heart attacks.

As part of the study, Chen’s team looked at insurance records of 21,876 adults age 50 and older. Taiwan’s national healthcare programme pays for tooth scaling, whether a person has severe gum disease or not. About half of the people in the study has had a tooth scaling during the past year, while the rest had not. Over the next seven years, 1.6% of the tooth-scaling group suffered a heart attack and 8.9% had a stroke.

In the comparison group, 2.2% had a heart attack and 10% had a stroke.

The research was also carried for other factors including chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or any kidney disease. The research declared that deep tooth cleaning is directly linked to reduction in the risk of heart ailments by 31% and mainly for heart strokes by 15%.

The only limitation of the study was that the researchers did not seek information about people’s smoking habits, weight, family diet history and the genetic occurrence for heart disorders. However, the report said that people who have a healthy oral hygiene have a healthier lifestyle and which in turn benefits heart.

“Bad dental hygiene is detrimental to our health, so it’s very important to take care of your teeth,” said Chen, who presented some of his team’s results last November at the American Heart Association meeting.

Source: American Journal of Medicine, published 5 April 2012

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