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Brush Your Teeth to Boost Heart Health

Update Date: Nov 08, 2013 10:26 AM EST

Brushing your teeth does more than prevent cavities; it can also boost heart health.

A new study reveals that people who keep up with dental hygiene are less likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes.

Failing to brush teeth regularly allows up to 700 types of bacteria to enter the bloodstream, according to experts. However, brushing and flossing can help fight harmful oral bacteria that can cause hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

These findings suggest that people who brush their teeth at least twice a day are significantly less likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes.

"These results are important because atherosclerosis (the narrowing of arteries through the build-up of plaque) progressed in parallel with both clinical periodontal disease and the bacterial profiles in the gums," Dr. Moïse Desvarieux, of Columbia University in New York said in a news release

"This is the most direct evidence yet that modifying the periodontal bacterial profile could play a role in preventing or slowing both diseases," Desvarieux added.

The latest study involved 420 adults over a period of three years. Participants underwent tests to assess their gun health and plaque buildup in their neck arteries. The findings revealed that improvements in gum health and was associated with a reduction of bacteria linked with gum infection and a slower rate of plaque accumulation in the neck arteries.

Previous studies revealed that bacteria buildup in the mouth can sometimes cause clots in the arteries, which can lead to deadly heart attacks and strokes. Studies on animals found that bacteria in the mouth can trigger inflammation associated with atherosclerosis, according to HealthDay.

"It is critical that we continue to follow these patients to see if the relationship between periodontal infections and atherosclerosis carries over to clinical events like heart attack and stroke, and test if modifying the periodontal flora will slow the progression of atherosclerosis," Desvarieux said.

"This is truly groundbreaking," Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, told the Express.

"The potential link between what goes on in your mouth and the health of your heart has been an intense topic of debate for some time. This research clearly shows the more you improve and maintain your gum health, the less chance there is of developing a potential life-threatening illness," he added.

The latest findings are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. 

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