Staying on top of oral hygiene may be connected to a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure (HF), according to a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Research has previously shown that having poor oral hygiene can lead to bacteria in the blood, which causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation increases the risk of both AF and HF.  

The study enrolled 161,286 participants from the Korean National Health Insurance System ages 40 to 79 with no history of AF or HF. The participants underwent a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004, with information collected on height, weight, laboratory tests, illnesses, lifestyle, oral health, and oral hygiene behaviors. Periodontal disease, a common condition in the general population closely tied to hygiene behaviors, was present in 13.4% of all participants.

After a median follow-up of 10.5 years, 3% of participants developed AF and 4.9% developed HF, according to the study. There was a 10% lower risk of AF and 12% lower risk of HF associated with brushing teeth 3 or more times per day. Groups with frequent brushing and professional dental cleaning had a lower risk of AF and HF, whereas those with larger numbers of missing teeth were associated with increased risk, the study found. These results were independent of a number of factors including age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities such as hypertension.

The researchers concluded that it is too early to recommend tooth brushing for the total protection of AF and congestive HF; however, healthier oral hygiene may help decrease risk. They added that intervention studies are needed to define strategies of public health importance.

Reference

Chang Y, Woo HG, Park J, et al. Improved oral hygiene care is associated with decreased risk of occurrence for atrial fibrillation and heart failure: A nationwide population-based cohort study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487319886018