Brushing your teeth more than twice per day could lower the risk of heart failure by more than ten per cent, a new study shows.

Researchers found brushing your teeth three or more times per day is linked with lower risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation – a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

One possible theory behind the discovery is that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria living in the pocket between the teeth and gums, preventing it from entering the bloodstream.

Existing studies show poor oral hygiene leads to bacteria in the blood, causing inflammation in the body.

Inflammation increases the risks of irregular heartbeat and heart failure, where the heart’s ability to pump blood or relax and fill with blood is impaired.

In their new research, scientists in South Korea examined the connection between oral hygiene and occurrence of these two conditions in a cohort study of more than 161,000 participants.

Senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song, of Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said: “We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings.”

But he also noted that the analysis was limited to one country and as an observational study does not prove causation.

The retrospective cohort study enrolled 161,286 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System aged between 40 and 79 with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure.

Participants underwent a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004 and information was collected on height, weight, laboratory tests, illnesses, lifestyle, oral health, and oral hygiene behaviours.

During a median follow-up of 10.5 years, three per cent of participants developed atrial fibrillation and around five per cent developed heart failure.

Tooth brushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure during the follow up.

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The findings were independent of a number of factors including age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and conditions such as hypertension.

While the study did not investigate mechanisms, one theory behind the findings is that frequent tooth brushing reduces bacteria living in the pocket between the teeth and gums, preventing it from entering the bloodstream.

An accompanying editorial states: “It is certainly too early to recommend tooth brushing for the prevention of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

“While the role of inflammation in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is becoming more and more evident, intervention studies are needed to define strategies of public health importance.”

The research was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology journal today (Mon).

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