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May 28th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Brush your teeth, save your heart?

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

It’s not only tartar build-up and nasty gum diseases you have to worry about. If you don’t brush your teeth twice a day, you’re more likely to develop heart disease, says a new British study.

Someone tell Jessica Simpson.

Earlier this month, the pop singer and sometimes-actress, told Ellen DeGeneres that she  brushes her teeth only about three times a week, because she doesn’t like them to “feel too slippery.”

“I don’t brush them everyday. I’ll use a shirt or something ... I know it's gross, but I always have fresh breath," she said.  Simpson added that she's a big fan of Listerine and floss.

So keep in mind - just because they’re pearly and sheen, it doesn’t mean they’re clean.

Other ways you might be ruining your teeth

The study published Friday in the British Medical Journal found that individuals with poor oral hygiene have a 70 percent increased risk of heart disease compared with people who brush twice daily. Read research here

This adds to existing research that shows having bad oral hygiene can lead to  problems, including inflammation that could clog arteries.

Researchers from the University College London analyzed data from a Scottish health survey, looking at responses from 11,000 adults about smoking, physical activity and oral health routine – including how often they visited the dentists and brushed their teeth. Their family and personal medical histories, blood pressure and samples were taken, too.

About 71 percent reported brushing their teeth twice a day and 62 percent said they visit a dentist twice a year*.  Those with poor oral hygiene  had higher risk of heart disease and also tested positive for inflammatory markers such as the C-reactive protein and fibrinogen.

People magazine interviewed Simpson’s dentist, Dr. Bill Dorfman, who was surprised to hear his patient did not brush twice a day.

"It's great that she’s flossing all the time, but you have to brush too," Dorfman told People. "What goes on in your mouth really affects your whole body."

[*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the frequency of dental visits by people in the study.]

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Wonder Woman

    There is a correlation between gum disease and heart disease. Check the WebMD article: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/what-dentist-knows-about-your-health

    May 29, 2010 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ricky yd

      I think we need a better system for these kind of dental problems and woes. It seems like everyone is having problems with their teeth and it looks like we are about to enter yet another recession. . .I’m honestly a little scared these days about how I can support my family. We need to have a discussion on REAL resources out there to help single mothers like us take care of our family... I know about

      http://www.healthsouk.com (HealthSouk) and http://www.1800dentist.com (1800 Dentist)

      but are there any other great organizations that help people get connected to doctors for discounted health prices that can help? We don’t qualify for government assistance!
      healthsouk
      Thomas Little

      October 15, 2011 at 02:55 | Report abuse |
  2. Bubba

    ....Study Paid for by Colgate ?

    May 29, 2010 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joseph

    I wonder how much the toothpaste and toothbrush companies paid the British Medical Journal to manufacture this data in this Scottish Health Survey.....its all a bunch of pure nonsense.... in fact brushing your teeth more than 5 times a week wears out the protective enamel which in turn weakens your teeth thus accelerates tooth decay and creates bleeding from constant rubbing the gums with the brush which in turn can cause serious infections. There no true scientific proof that not brushing your teeth twice a day causes heart disease, nor any correlation whatsoever between not brushing your teeth and heart disease.
    Once in a while this so called medical journals come up with this nonsensical ridiculous pseudo-scientific studies in order to boost their revenues from sponsors.

    May 29, 2010 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vizzini

      Actually, the link between poor oral hygiene and poor cardiovascular outcomes is well-established. For the sake of your own health and that of any poor fools that believe your uninformed diatribe, please do a little research before spouting off.

      A nice side benefit is that the people around you will also be grateful that they don't have to smell the bacteria that thrive in your mouth if left unmolested for a full 24 hours.

      If your enamel is wearing down or you are suffering from gum recession due to brushing twice a day, you are brushing incorrectly - probably bearing down with too much pressure. That's a fairly common mistake, but it's easy to correct: just hold your toothbrush near the end of the stem with a thumb and three fingers. And use a soft toothbrush. You can apply sufficient pressure with that setup, but it's difficult to damage your gums or teeth if you don't full-fist the toothbrush and hold it away from the bristles.

      March 18, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. SmartyPantz

    To all you 'self-appointed doctors'.. that automatically assume there is no physiological link between brushing teeth and heart disease just because you have never heard of it.....

    You are wrong.

    Bacteria thrives in our moist mouths, between our teeth, and especially within our dental cavities. Know what lies just beneath our gum layer? small blood vessels. This is a potential direct access for bacteria to get into our bloodstream. Know where your blood goes? your heart.

    May 29, 2010 at 04:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. musti

    I dont think this amount of percent co relation between teeth brush and heart attack!! what is scientifical explanation behained this?

    May 29, 2010 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Michael A. Putt, D.M.D.

    There is no question that those who do not take proper care of their mouths also may very likely not take proper care of their overall health, but that is not the only correlation. Many peer reviewed studies have shown the direct link between the bacteria that populate the oral plaque and conditions such as arterial disease, diabetes, pre term – low birth weight babies, and stroke risk. The American Academy of Periodontology and the dental community as a whole has been saying this for years and further study has only continued to confirm the results of the research. Genetic predisposition, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor oral hygiene are all risk factors that act in concert to produce such life threatening medical conditions.

    May 29, 2010 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jackoberry

    Well, consensus, is in. Since so many people agree that there is no direct correlation between brushing teeth and heart diesease, then there cannot possibly be a link. I'm glad to see we are able to create truth by agreeing on something.

    Where I have been living life expectancy is 40, but people are festidious about cleaning their teeth, whether with tooth paste (which few can afford) or without, a pleasant tasting stick chewed to fiber, a sliver of bamboo or a rough cloth. To do less is considered barbaric. Yet they suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure and parasites, compounded by poor nutrition.

    It would be enouraging to see researchers make the effort to cast their research tool over a wider spectrum of the world's societies and living conditions, where most people live.

    May 29, 2010 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Leslie

    How ironic that the people with the worst looking teething in the world would conduct this study.

    May 29, 2010 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Leslie

    BC659: You need counseling.

    May 29, 2010 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Shane

    Have some of you seen the entire data set for the research? Do you know what the P values are that support their conclusion? Do you know for a fact that they haven't taken those other things (exercise, diet, etc) into account? If not then you don't have a clue so don't pretend to. Not all research is done with a great deal of statistical knowledge, but there is some research out there that's valid. Maybe poor oral hygiene isn't the root cause of the increased risk of heart disease, but it's possibly a signal of a lifestyle that could contribute to heart disease. Again, if you're not a doctor or a statistician with access to the study data then you have no business trying to refute it. Just brush your grubby teeth and move on.

    May 29, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jose Fernandez

    For all the armchair scientists here, please speak to a doctor or dentist. This article is not really news as this correlation has long been known. Poor oral hygiene leads to bleeding gums which provides an open channel for germs into the blood stream.

    May 29, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RGR

    yes, there is a definite link between oral hygiene and the health of the rest of your body. all day we swallow saliva. if there is infection in our mouths we are spreading that infection with each swallow. Our hearts are particularly vulnerable to anything that obstructs the intricate workings of that organ – inflammation, plague, infection, etc . Our body works as an interdependent system. We are not just functioning parts as the breakdown of medical specialties would like us to think. What we have in our mouths and swallow affects our entire body – not just food (which we are finally admitting) but also, what lives in our mouth.

    May 29, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Star

    I bet the surveys were headed by dentists! ha ha ha ha ha

    May 29, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mary

    Okay, my first thought at Jessica Simpson's revelation was "disgusting!!!" But, upon reading that she flosses, uses Listerine and wipes her teeth clean, it doesn't seem so gross. It sounds like she's getting the same effects without the abrasion of a toothbrush. The connection between mouth health and the heart is all based on bacteria, so if she's killing the bacteria and flossing, her habits aren't quite as bad as they sound. I personally will continue brushing, though!

    May 29, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mary

    The people who are claiming there is no correlation between dental care and heart disease are very ignorant. It has long been known that the teeth and gums are breeding grounds for bacteria where they can easily enter the blood stream and reach the heart. Why do you think people with heart problems have to take heavy antibiotics before dental work? The singer Bobby Darin actually died because he didn't take preventive antibiotics before dental work. The bacteria in his mouth led to blood poisoning and destroyed his already weak heart.

    There is a strong correlation and I'm glad this article is emphasizing what many of us already know.

    I need to go brush and floss now...

    May 29, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Brian

    I'm guessing that's a correlation, and not causation. It is kind of silly if they are trying to claim that because in a study people who brushed their teeth twice a day had less heart disease, that brushing your teeth protects your heart...

    May 29, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. J. R.

    If you look at the actual study, the researchers did control for other things like lifestyle and diet. So the study wasn't as "amateurish" as some might think. Also, the study made clear that the researchers couldn't say for sure that poor dental hygiene *caused* heart disease, although they didn't rule out that possibility.

    May 29, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. sabrina

    I feel sorry for her!!

    May 29, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. bit

    Why would Jessica ever admit to only brushing her teeth three times a week? Just when I was starting to like her again.

    May 29, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sabrina

    wow shocked that girl should brush her teeth you don't know whats going to happen in your body.That wasen't smart to do, but it is her LIFE SO SHE CAN LIVE IT AND ROCK IT WITH HER DIRT TEETH

    May 29, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Yes1fan

    It is well known that those with mitral valve prolapse of the heart must take antibiotics before dental work. There IS bacteria in the teeth that definitely attacks the heart, and it IS old news. What is NOT well known, is that gargling with diluted Peroxide-water (says on the bottle – an oral astringement) each night, KILLs those anearobic germs on contact with a blast of oxygen, stops strep throat immediately, and whitens your teeth. A cheap tidbit they don't want you to know about, because the alternative is too lucrative.

    May 29, 2010 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Julie

    Perhaps before people make comments to dismiss the subject matter of the article, they should study the physiology and pathology of both the dental caries and periodontal disease processes.

    May 29, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. arif

    this is very true for healthy life ,oral hygine is very impotant not only for heart.unfortunately for any gum or dental disorder to control it so expensive is not affordable especially for old people.dentist ry buisness and their servic all can afford .

    May 29, 2010 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. prinac

    Oral bacteria (bacterial toxins) may not cause heart disease.

    Bacteria within the body may contribute to internal inflammation.
    But, something stronger causes heart damage: such as airborne chemicals, and wood smoke (40x worse than cigarette smoke).
    Algaecide, diesel fumes, disinfectants and wood smoke (smoke inhalation) inflame the heart . And, can cause swelling of the heart and lungs.

    And, Rx drug reactions (antibiotics) cause inflammation of the cardiovascular system. These adverse drug reactions can cause severe heart damage.
    Drug reactions are caused by drug interactions, and by food-drug interactions. Example: Cipro + pineapple = a strong chemical reaction that causes severe heart damage.

    TO PREVENT FOOD-DRUG INTERACTIONS (severe drug reactions):
    During treatment with antibiotics (and ibuprofen), we need to avoid foods that contain DE digestive enzymes (tropical fruits, Lactase, invertase) and meat tenderizers (sodium phosphates) found in meat and fish, processed foods and snack foods.

    Antibiotics or ibuprofen + DE or MT = severe heart damage

    And many people may have suffered "food-drug Interactions" caused by antibiotics (quinlones) in animal products.

    PS – About anthrax problem in US (East Coast) around 2002.
    A strong antibiotic, Cipro (quinlone) was prescibed to employees of news agencies and others. Many had bad reactions, and had to stop using the drug. The drug reactions were food-drug interactions, which cause heart damage. Can have inflamed enlarged heart, 3 months later.

    May 30, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. vgr

    I strongly believe that its not only oral hygiene but its ur diet also which are responsible for the overall fitness of the teeth and that is why we generally say "you are what you eat". I brush before sleep only but during day, I use chewgum, which primarily keeps my teeth clean & healthy, followed by more concentration and it also helps me to burn some calories as well. Watch your eating habits and go for a balanced diet, adopt some kind of fitness regime, sleep well, use chewgum regularly and maintain oral hygiene and try to wash your mouth after you eat or drink anything (except water) and wether you have any teeth problem or not, visit your dentist twice a year.

    May 30, 2010 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. anon

    Jesus... A study on teeth in the U.K.?! Isn't that the country with the world's WORST teeth?! Just look at Austin Powers!! "Yeah, baby!!!"

    May 30, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Austin Ivey

    @Lisa
    "This is the most ridiculous story I've read in awhile. Maybe those who don't brush twice a day also don't eat well and don't exercise. Maybe they also neglect other things that affect their health. I doubt their heart health has anything whatsoever to do with brushing. But we'll never know unless some real, scientifiic research is done, instead of this anecdotal and amateurish guessing."

    Actually, the bacterial biofilm on your teeth, better known as plaque, changes as you leave it un-brushed, and biodiversifies. Those organisms that can call it home can then enter the blood stream if dislodged, perhaps through an abrasion or opening in your inflamed gums or your esophagus. Those species have already been linked with heard conditions, such as endocarditis, when they deposit on jeopardized heart structures and, basically, form plaque on the heart itself. There is plenty of "scientific research" on the subject, I suggest you look it up.

    -A dental student at UNC

    May 30, 2010 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. D Nelson

    Another "no duh" moment in reporting. Why did this study even need to be conducted? We've known for years that, unless you somehow keep your mouth in someplace other than your body, poor oral hygiene increases heart disease. Infections and disease are spread through the body in the blood stream. Every fourth grader knows that. If you get infected gums, that infection will spread throughout your body.

    There have been numerous studies linking heart disease to poor oral health – even something as simple as cavities increases the risk.

    I've never understood why dental care is not covered as part of everyone's regular health insurance, and why dentists are not regular practitioners of every health clinic. Why should people have to pay extra – and carry a separate policy – for dental care when we know everything in the body is connected? It was one of the major disappointments I had with the healthcare bill that passed. It should have done away with the separate policies and made dental care a standard part of the health coverage. (no need to charge more, the insurance companies already charge more than enough in premiums and co-pays to cover all the health/dental care twice over)

    May 31, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. JackieK

    It's hard to believe that there would be an argument from anyone on whether or not we should take care of our teeth! A connection to heart disease or not, why wouldn't a person want to take care of their teeth??
    Do we really need scientific proof?

    Sadly I believe that people spend a lot of time, too much time, arguing a point that really is not important. If you brush your teeth, which I would guess most people do, why do we need to have a discussion on whether it's a good idea or a bad idea?

    WOW!?!?!?

    May 31, 2010 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Purna

    No doubt there is direct and definite functional as well as anatomical correlation b/w oral hygiene and heart diseases..it's been clear above.I strongly advise those who dismiss this article not to comment without having adequate knowledge in the relevant subject.it's shameful to them..of course that research must have been conducted with proper scientific steps and procedures..so all controls(e.g.life style,exercise,smoking etc.) and confounding factors must have been included there..most probably they are adding their valueless comments without knowing this.it's really ridiculous.However, it's not unnatural for the people other than dental and medical personnel not to have sound concept regarding this subject..

    May 31, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Reid Winick

    Another great article showing how medicine and dentistry will be teamed up in the future to offer their patients the best preventive care.

    Periodontal Disease does not just play a role heart disease. If you are interested, do a search and you will see a long list of other diseases related some how to gum disease. It seems every month, another new article comes out.

    From reading the previous posts, there are two myths out there that I feel need to be addressed. One, FLOSSING is a WASTE of time if you have periodontal (gum) disease (ie. pockets of 4mm or more). Water irrigating is much more effective. Two, with a treatment program that address the periodontal bacteria and better food choices to improve your body's ability to heal on its own you DONT need to have gum surgery to correct your gum disease. I should know. We have been doing this for our patients for the last 15 years.

    Reid Winick, DDS
    http://www.dentistryforhealthny.com

    May 31, 2010 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Studio City Dental Group

    It is very important to brush your teeth 3 times a day EVERY DAY of the week. Some people don't realize the complications that a poor oral hygiene may have in your body. We are firm believers in the old adage that, “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”. By actively preventing oral disease and tooth decay through regular dental exams, conscientious home care, and professional dental cleanings, you will be able to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

    For more information visit:
    http://www.studiocitydentalgroup.com

    June 1, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Seriously?

    Since I have seen this "finding" I've done nothing but laugh. Lisa is absolutely correct. This boils down to a very basic and apparently overlooked scientific fact.

    CORRELATION DOES NOT PROVE CAUSATION. Period!

    Excercise habits and diets weren't even considered in this study? Are you serious? Whoever gave this study/story a moments worth of validation should apologize to the easily persuaded minds of the public. Scare tactics to brush or DIE? wow.......

    June 16, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sarah

    My friends and I have been arguing about how important it is to floss, brushing my teeth is a no-brainer, but flossing is even more important! I doubt that Jessica Simpson has gone her whole life just brushing 3 times a week, but that is not healthy to do for even a short amount of time. I've gone to many great dentists too, James Snow DDS is the most recent. I make sure that my dentist is experienced and will take care of me. It's great news to me that good oral health can "save my heart," because I have always taken great care of my teeth! Thanks for the post, I love to hear good news!

    January 21, 2011 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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  36. Rigoberto Woodin

    Receding gums is very common if you also happen to suffer from bruxism. `

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  37. Ghislaine Bault

    eceding gums are a normal part of the aging process. Gums recede for a number of different reasons. It could be due to genetics, but it may also be caused by harsh brushing, or "toothbrush abrasion," as well as "periodontal" or gum disease. ^

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    Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system, principally cardiac disease, vascular diseases of the brain and kidney, and peripheral arterial disease.,,`..

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    June 22, 2013 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Brent

    I wonder if bad teeth cause health problems or if it is something else. If you eat 10 donuts a day, you will have bad teeth and bad health. I just can't figure out how bad teeth would cause dementia and heart disease.

    October 3, 2013 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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