Clean teeth, healthy heart?

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A new, large study suggests that receiving regular dental cleanings may be linked to a lower heart attack risk. Researchers have speculated about this unlikely relationship between dental health and heart disease for years, although up until now there have been few strong conclusions.

In the most recent study, researchers from Taiwan analyzed the dental records of over 100,000 individuals over the course of about seven years. Those who had their teeth cleaned professionally meaning cleaned and scaled at least once reduced their risk of heart attack by about one-fourth, and stroke risk by about one-tenth, as compared to those who had never had a professional teeth cleaning. Furthermore, the more frequently participants had their teeth cleaned, the more of a reduction in heart attack risk they experienced. One possible explanation for this relationship is that cleaning the teeth could reduce the growth of bacteria that cause inflammation, which might lead to heart disease.

Yet while the sheer number of study participants is impressive, the study did not control for a wide variety of other factors that could confound the relationship between dental health and cardiovascular effects. These factors, including obesity or smoking, could reasonably have contributed to the increased heart disease risk. As ACSH s Alyssa Pelish points out, What these researchers are finding is only a correlation between cleaning your teeth and heart health. But teeth cleaning does not necessarily cause the reduction in heart attack risk those people who take better care of their teeth are also just more likely to take better care of themselves in general.