Visiting a dental hygienist isn't just good for your teeth – it could also protect your heart, researchers claim. They found that those who have their teeth professionally cleaned and polished at least once a year cut their risk of a heart attack by nearly a quarter.
And they are 13 per cent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who have never had the treatment.
Scientists have known for several years that the condition of teeth and gums is strongly linked to the likelihood of heart problems.
Not brushing properly causes plaque to build up, which leads to gum disease. Bacteria then enter the blood stream via the gums, and it is thought that this causes artery walls to become inflamed, which can trigger heart attacks or strokes.
The bacteria may also contribute to the build-up of fatty deposits in the bloodstream, which can also lead to heart problems.
Researchers from Taiwan looked at the records of more than 100,000 adults over seven years and noted how often they went to a dental hygienist.
Lead researcher Emily Chen from the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, who presented the findings at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions conference in Florida, said: ‘Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year.’
‘Keeping your teeth clean and visiting the dentist is important but if you really want to help look after your heart, make sure you eat a balanced diet, avoid smoking and take part in regular physical activity.’
A separate study found that those with fewer than 21 teeth were two-thirds more likely to have a heart attack. Healthy adults have 32.
Anders Holmlund from Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden also found that people with large numbers of infection around the gums were 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.
Regular visits to the dental hygienist not only keeps you teeth bright and clean, it can also improve your health.