Here is one great reason to visit the dentist if you are one of few, fortunate people who have dental insurance. According to a study administered in Taiwan, people who receive at least one professional teeth cleaning and scraping or “scaling” help reduce their risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers looked at more than 100,000 adults in the Taiwan national health insurance database and found that, if they had at least one cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist in their lifetime, they had a 24-percent lower risk of heart attack and a 13-percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who had never gone.
“We knew that dental health contributed to heart attack and stroke, but didn’t know that tooth scaling would have more effect on other places in the body and not just the teeth and mouth — especially not in subjects that did not have dental problems,” said Dr. Zu-Yin Chen, a member of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s division of cardiology and one of the study’s authors.
Contained within the provocative report, which was presented to The American Heart Association, researchers suggest higher frequency of professional tooth cleaning led to a greater reduction in heart risk.
“The results are not surprising since there have been many studies showing association between inflammation and heart disease,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and Director, Nuclear Cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City. “With tooth scaling, the thought is that chronic inflammation is decreased. Good dental hygiene is recommended for all patients,” he added.
Phillips pointed to other limitations to the study, as well. “It is unclear the additional risk factors that these patients had in each group beyond those recorded in their database, so we do not know if they are comparing similar patients,” he said. “In addition, those people who are proactive about their health may have lower risk of heart disease and stroke, independent of their risk factors. People who go for routine dental work, such as tooth scaling, are likely to be in this group.”
Meanwhile, a separate study from Sweden revealed different types of gum disease may predict the degree of risks for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. The researchers found that fewer teeth and a higher number of infections around the base of teeth increase a person’s risk for congestive heart failure or heart attack. Moreover, they found greater incidence of gum bleeding was also associated with an increased risk for stroke.