We know brushing our teeth helps keep tooth decay at bay. But could it prevent heart attacks? A recent US study published in the American Journal of Medicine came up with some interesting findings that might make you smile!
Gum disease and heart disease
Previous studies have shown that those with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart disease. So scientists wanted to find out whether maintaining good dental health could lower this risk.
Over 60 days, 61 patients cleaned their teeth with either normal toothpaste or a special toothpaste which highlights areas of plaque on the teeth – a common cause of gum disease. Their levels of plaque and c-reactive protein were then monitored.
What is c-reactive protein?
Those with gum disease usually have higher amounts of c-reactive protein – a substance which measures inflammation in the body. C-reactive protein is also linked to heart disease and stroke, which is why a high-sensitivity c-reactive protein test is usually done to find whether patients are at risk of these illnesses.
Disclosing toothpaste vs regular toothpaste
Those using the special ‘disclosing’ toothpaste to highlight plaque on their teeth were able to remove twice as much as those using everyday toothpaste. Because they’d managed to remove their plaque by 49%, their levels of c-reactive protein (measuring bodily inflammation) fell by 29%.
Meanwhile, those using everyday toothpaste only reduced their plaque levels by 24% but their levels of inflammation actually rose by 25%.
Could tooth brushing reduce heart disease risk?
It’s tempting to see these numbers as significant because statins, the medication used to reduce levels of cholesterol and therefore the risk of heart disease, lower the amount of inflammation by around 37%. At this stage, however, the sample study is too small to be conclusive.
But, if the elimination of gum disease is eventually linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, then merely brushing our teeth could be more important for the prevention of other diseases than previously thought. This could be of major benefit for those who can’t take medication – and it leaves you with a healthy smile!
Speaking about the findings, Dr Aseem Malhotra, NHS consultant cardiologist, said: “I think there could be something in this because we do know that inflammation is an important factor in cardiovascular disease. But prevention is always better than cure and cutting down on sugar could help prevent plaque in the first place, and improving diet improves heart health.”
Detect plaque with disclosing tablets
Although these results don’t prove anything yet, we know a good diet and oral health regime have a big impact on your general health and well-being. But the good news is, you don’t even need to be in one of these trials to benefit from disclosing toothpaste.
Many pharmacies stock disclosing tablets, which work in the same way. Simply chew one every few days and a special dye shows up the plaque on your teeth, identifying problem areas which could lead to gum disease if not kept on top of.
If you’re concerned about your teeth and gums, take a look at our advice on how to prevent gum disease, or make an appointment with our Notting Hill dental hygienist at Number 18 by calling 020 7792 2333.