By OTHERSOctober 20, 2016Print : World
By Sarah Knapton
Brushing teeth thoroughly to remove plaque could help prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing inflammation in the body to levels close to what can be achieved by statins, a new study suggests.
Scientists in the US conducted a trial to see if a special toothpaste, which highlighted plaque on the teeth could help heart health.
Several studies have shown that people with diseased gums are also more likely to suffer heart disease but it had never been shown that good dental health could lower the risk.
Researchers found that people using the special toothpaste were able to remove twice as much plaque than those using a normal toothpaste and their levels of inflammation also fell by 29 per cent. Statins lower inflammation by around 37 per cent.
The study was led by Prof Charles Hennekens, of Florida Atlantic University, who was part of the team that discovered the benefit of aspirin to heart health in the 1990s and is estimated to have saved more than one million lives through his research.
“I think this could have policy implications for tens of millions of people alongside statins, aspirin, and beta blockers and other agents that help lower cardiovascular disease,” said Prof Hennekens.
“The distinguishing thing in my mind about this is that it is a fairly simple thing to do and yet seems to have a big impact. And there are no side-effects that we know of. You get the benefit of better oral health and potentially big heart benefits too.
“We want to try this out on bigger numbers of people with heart disease so we can see if it is actually able to prevent heart attacks and strokes. So this is a jumping off point, but it’s an important result.”
Previous studies have shown that people with gum disease are more likely to suffer heart disease
In the trial, 61 patients were given either the special or normal toothpaste and followed for 60 days. Their plaque and inflammation levels were tested before and after the study.
Those using the disclosing toothpaste reduced their plaque levels by 49 per cent compared with 24 per cent for the control group. Inflammation, measured by levels of c-reactive protein, also fell by 29 per cent for the special toothpaste group, but rose by 25 per cent for the control group.
The team is now working on a grant proposal for a larger study of 6,000 people with heart disease to see if improving oral health could prevent heart attacks and strokes over several years.
Around 160,000 people die from heart and circulatory disease in the UK every year. British experts said the study provided preliminary evidence that looking after dental health could help in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
NHS consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, 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.”
Dr Tim Chico, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine and consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, added: “This does seem to suggest that better dental hygiene is able to reduce inflammation in the entire body.
“We know that if people have a source of chronic inflammation (such as gum disease) this may increase their risk of developing heart disease.
“The reduction in c-reactive protein seen with the better tooth cleaning could translate into a reduced risk of heart disease, but this would require a much larger and longer-term study to prove.
“In the meantime, it seems sensible to pay attention to improving dental hygiene both in order to reduce risk of problems with our teeth and also perhaps our risk of heart disease.” However some experts were more cautious about the findings.
Dr Michael Holmes, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Medicine, at Oxford University added: “While C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, C-reactive protein itself does not play a role in the development of heart disease, meaning that any alterations in isolation are not meaningful.