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Help your heart. Brush your teeth twice a day.

May 28, 2010 |  7:00 am

Toothbrush
Good oral hygiene includes, at a minimum, brushing your teeth twice a day and visiting the dentist every six months. People who do that will not only be rewarded with better dental health, they are also less likely to develop heart disease, a study finds.

In recent years, researchers have connected the dots between inflammation in the gums and inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the heart. A study released online Friday in the British Medical Journal suggests that consistent brushing of the teeth may be a significant strategy to reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers analyzed data from 1,100 Scottish adults and found that people who reported less frequent brushing had a 70% extra risk of heart disease, although their overall risk of heart disease was still relatively low. This association was apparent after adjusting for other factors that contribute to heart disease, such as obesity, smoking and family history of heart disease.

The people who brushed fewer than twice a day were more likely to test positive for chemical markers of inflammation in the blood, such as C-reactive protein and fibrinogen.

Overall, periodontal disease is linked to a 19% increased future risk of heart disease. But, the authors said, it's not entirely clear yet whether gum inflammation contributes to heart disease or is a marker for it.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Al Seib  /  Los Angeles Times

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