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Dentists Can Help Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk

By on March 1, 2012

Black men are disproportionately affected by heart attack and stroke, in fact dying at a higher rate than other racial groups. But a 2011, presentation at the American Heart Association in Florida revealed that people who visit the dentist regularly to have their teeth cleaned may in fact, lower their risk for heart attack or stroke.

The results come from research that followed more than 100,000 people with no history of heart problems or stroke for an average of seven years. The researchers from Taiwan found those who had their teeth scraped and cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist at least twice a year for two years had a 24% lower risk for heart attack and a 13% lower risk for stroke compared to those who never went to the dentist or only went once in two years.

“Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year,” said Dr. Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen, a cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei in a news release from the American Heart Association.

Professional teeth cleanings seem to reduce the growth of bacteria, which causes inflammation and can lead to the development of heart disease or stroke, she added.

Links between oral health and heart health are well known. “The results are not surprising since there have been many studies showing association between inflammation and heart disease,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and Director, Nuclear Cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City. “With tooth scaling, the thought is that chronic inflammation is decreased. Good dental hygiene is recommended for all patients,” he added.

The study authors noted they did not account for other heart attack and stroke risk factors, such as weight, smoking and race, not included in the Taiwan National Health insurance database they used as the source of their information.

A separate study from Sweden revealed different types of gum disease may predict the degree of risks for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. The researchers found that fewer teeth and a higher number of infections around the base of teeth increase a person’s risk for congestive heart failure or heart attack. Moreover, they found greater incidence of gum bleeding was also associated with an increased risk for stroke.

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