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Annual Dental Visits Cut Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Good oral hygiene is a part of good overall health.

When economic times get tough, many people start looking at ways to cut expenses. One healthcare item that may fall by the wayside is regular dental care. But before you skip your next dentist appointment, think about this: Getting yearly professional teeth-cleanings can dramatically reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

In a study that will be presented this week at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida, cardiology fellow Zu-Yin Chen of the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei will give results found by looking at the dental records of over 102,000 patients without a history of a cardiovascular event. The volunteers were followed for about seven years.

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The Taiwanese team found that those who had their teeth cleaned more than once every two years had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 13% reduced risk of stroke compared to those who had never had their teeth cleaned. Even those who were more infrequent with their dental visits (less than once every two years) had a 13% lower risk of heart attack and 9% lower risk of stroke.

A previous study published in 2010 in the journal BMJ found that brushing teeth at least twice a day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 70% because it decreases mouth bacteria that contributes to chronic inflammation which is associated with the formation of plaque in the blood vessels and the hardening of the arteries. However, only professional cleaning can remove tartar, or dental calculus, which can result in tooth decay and gingivitis. Untreated advanced gum disease (periodontitis) further contributes to heart disease risk.

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In fact, a separate study by periodontist Anders Holmlund of Sweden which will also be presented this week at the AHA meeting finds that periodontal disease causing tooth loss increases risk of heart disease by 69%. Fewer teeth also corresponded to an increased risk of congestive heart failure while more incidents of gum bleeding correlated to a higher likelihood of stroke, the study showed.

“Oral hygiene is very important and we should all help to teach the correct way to maintain oral health,” said Chen. “Your teeth are important, too, so take good care of them.”