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.]

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soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Randy Green

    The Scottish survey must've been done at group therapy session for obsessive-compulsive disorders...

    May 28, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jenn

    "About 71 percent reported brushing their teeth twice a day and 62 percent said they visit a dentist twice a day. "

    Well, if they visit a dentist twice a DAY as the article describes, no wonder they are in perfect shape!

    May 28, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Camelia

    "62 percent said they visit a dentist twice a day." I'm pretty sure this sentence should read "twice a year", otherwise dentists would be the richest (and busiest) guys in the world! 🙂

    May 28, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. 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.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. nikki porter

    i wish i could afford to go to the dentist...i have teeth that needed pulled years ago, but the co-pays are too high. I have good insurance and have had for the last 13 years, but still can't get the dental care i deserve. my son is disabled and on Medicaid and we can't find a dentist who takes adults so he has to suffer with dental pain. this industry needs an overhaul.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. elidude

    cleans her teeth w/ a shirt...

    does she watch tv w/ her feet? eat w/ her elbow?


    May 28, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. robin

    Yes this article is very informative. Many folks do not take care of
    their teeth and they dont realize the risks of having bad oral hygiene.
    I have a sibling who needs open heart surgery soon and his
    teeth are bad. He has always had bad teeth since childhood.
    The doctor said he could possibly die if
    his teeth arent taken care of first before his open heart sugery
    takes place. He could have end up with infection in his blood stream
    and have other complications.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. TrudyBird

    Gross... I'm not impressed. It's also important to have your cat or dog's teeth cleaned to promote their general health. They'll like a long time and much healthier if you take care of their teeth.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. BC659

    I brush my dog's teeth every single morning. The vet says I can add about 5 years to her life.

    Jessica, wake up! That's so disgusting and stupid!

    May 28, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jared

    If you don't brush, you're a slob. If you're a slob, you probably don't work out and you probably eat a lot of fast food. If you do those two things, you probably have a higher risk of heart disease. Can I have my PhD now?

    May 28, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rachel

    This information is old news – the plaque on your teeth is the same plaque in your blood vessels...DUH!!!

    May 28, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kaitlyn

    "62 percent said they visit a dentist twice a day."
    ...That's a LOT of dentist visits...

    May 28, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Anne

    It's more important to stay away from sweets and fast food and eat things that are good for you. Fresh fruits are good for your teeth. PS: A dentist friend told me we don't need toothpaste, a good brushing will do just fine; we're brainwashed into using a lot of things that we don't need.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LacrosseSon

    You gotta love these non-scientific studies.


    The simple matter of fact is that those with poor diets also have poor oral hygiene, that's all.

    I mean, you could also find similar results of people with poor oral hygiene and arrest warrants, yet there's no direct corrolation between those, either.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ryan

    I think it's easy to figure, people who take very good care of their dental hygiene are probably more prone to live a healthier lifestyle in general. I don't think cavities are gonna give you a heart attack.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bacon

    Isn't it more likely that people who don't take care of their mouth aren't taking care of themselves as much either? And that this could cause the health problems.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dan

    Jared: And that's the trouble with epidemiological studies: they don't indicate causation. As you said, people who brush twice a day are probably more likely to exercise and eat healthfully than those who don't. There's no link shown between what's on your teeth, tongue, or in your mouth and your arterial health.

    Anne: Your dentist was right. Several studies done years ago showed that brushing with a firm toothbrush and water was just as effective at removing plaque as brushing with toothpaste and, in another study, baking soda. The added fluoride in toothpaste is a marketing gimmick: the enamel on your teeth will absorb all the fluoride (or fluorine, if you prefer) it's ever going to once you've passed childhood.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jane

    This article does a rather poor job of explaining the issue. Not brushing doesn't just randomly cause heart problems. There are bacteria in your mouth that can build up and slip into your bloodstream through your gums and cause heart disease like bacterial endocarditis. The elderly are especially susceptible to this. However, using a good mouthwash everyday, does far more to prevent this than even brushing.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Dave

    This all sounds like a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc...

    Those who tend to not take very good care of their overall health (including their heart) also tend to not brush their teeth and/or visit the dentist with regularity...

    May 28, 2010 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Arthur

    She brushes them or she would not have nice teeth!

    May 28, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. George B from Ohio

    People people ... there IS a correlation between dental hygiene and heart health. Bacteria forms in your mouth from food residue and can cause infections of the heart. Ignore this fact at your own risk.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. xSampleX

    There appears to be real evidence that the bacteria that contributes to periodontal disease also effects the heart muscle. So this is not that strange.

    As for Elidude, you had me laughing out loud. Great comment.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. xSampleX

    and of course, I meant affect, as in "have an effect on". Grrr.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dan

    Ryan.... infections in the gums are the absolute worst thing for your heart. Ask a periodontist.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. The_Mick

    I my copay is only $10 for cleaning, checking, & regular-fillings and I've only been going once per year even though my insurance pays for every six months. I brush once per day and am poor at flossing but, at age 59, I need to do better because I just dodged, this past Monday, what looked like a possible root canal – an old cracked filling was involved. I'm going to go twice a year from now on and I asked my dentist to go over correct flossing methods and products with me in detail. I left her office with several samples and am determined to get a second 2-minute brushing in as well as at least one flossing per day. I still have all my non-wisdom teeth (3 crowns) and hope my luck despite poor habits will hold up through my senior years with better dental attention.

    May 28, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. royce

    About 71 percent reported brushing their teeth twice a day and 62 percent said they visit a dentist twice a year.

    am i reading this right..what is everybody talking about 62% visit the dentist twice a day...LOL

    May 28, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Erika

    When I was 20, I went to the dentist to get a cracked tooth fixed. The tooth was fixed but I did not know I was also walking out with a staph infection from the dentist using dirty instruments. Because of the staph infection, it entered my bloodstream and went straight to my heart. 3/4 of my aortic valve was eaten by this bacteria. Luckily, I made it to the ER before my body started shutting down and went into coma. I had to have open heart surgery because of the Endocarditis. . My aortic valve was replaced and a pacemaker was put in. I have always had good hygiene through my childhood and adult life. Always visited the dentist 2x a year for checkups or if anything else came up. The sad part was I researched this dentist before I went, visited the office beforehand and had several friends who used this dentist. Unfortunately, I got the bad end of this deal. I can not stress enough how important it is to take care of your teeth and to research your dentist. You just never know these days! Its been 9 years since I went through that terrible ordeal and I feel very blessed to be alive!

    May 28, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. judy

    It's important to brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day. Often people brushing often enough but not long enough to remove the plaque. Also, flossing needs to happen once a day. This in addition to twice a year cleaning.

    It has been shown that plague in a dog's mouth can affect the heart. Dogs teeth should be brushed daily and cleaned yearly.

    May 28, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Joseph

    I guess before dental care people died all of hart desease. It is hard to beleave human race is still going, and BTW why don't they spend the money in something useful instead of these non-sense studies?

    May 28, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ted

    There are *many* scientific studies linking poor oral hygiene to heart disease...this is old news...I heard about the first studies well over 10 years ago. It's easy to Google and get to these studies. Don't post vacuous statements like "THERE IS NO CORROLATION [sic] BETWEEN NOT BRUSHING YOUR TEETH AND HEART DISEASE!" without doing a modicum of personal research.

    May 28, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. V

    What's wrong with using a shirt? Wiping your teeth with a cloth is quite effective at removing the gunk from around the gums, and it is recommended for babies and toddlers. Is there any evidence that a toothbrush is better than a cloth?

    May 28, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. GP

    Lisa has it right!! This is another typical correlation = causation BS article. Lack of brushing your teeth is not necessarily a cause of heart disease as this article seems to suggest. It is likely the fact that people who do not brush their teeth are also in poor health in other areas.

    May 28, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Elizabeth


    (Note: Not all plaque is alike. The plaques in your arteries have nothing to do with dental plaque your dental hygienist scrapes off your teeth. Dental plaque is a sticky residue of bacteria, acid, and food particles that can irritate your gums and eat away at tooth enamel.)

    May 28, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jackie

    Your all so wrong and stupid. Not brushing your teeth leeds to massive tooth decay and horrible gum disease. Your mouth is a passageway to to the rest of your body. Google gum disease and endocarditis. Grow up people.

    May 28, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. bet

    Did anyone else here click on the link to the actual research paper and read it? You should, especially those who are dismissing this as nonsense. I've worked in the field of inflammation for more than 10 years at a major biotechnology company in the USA. Possible links between cardiopulmonary events and poor oral hygiene (stronger association than general unhealthy lifestyle) have been suspected for more than a decade. Time magazine had a nicely done article about 5-6 years ago. If I may respectfully clear up a couple of misconceptions...

    Oral plaque and vascular plaque are not the same. OP is made of bacteria, and VP is made of lipids (fats).

    This research paper is not anecdotal and amateurish guessing. It is real scientific research. The clinical studies alone involved nearly 12,000 men and women.

    Anyway, at least read the abstract before you say it's complete trash.

    May 28, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Kyle


    Wrong – there is a corrolation between not brushing and heart disease, as shown in the study. Corrolation does not mean causation though, so you are right in the regard that brushing your teeth may have no impact on heart health.

    May 28, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. john

    Rachel May 28th, 2010 16:24 ET
    This information is old news – the plaque on your teeth is the same plaque in your blood vessels...DUH!!!

    That is not true, the plaque on your teeth is very different from those in your arteries. The world isn't as simple as it seems.

    Lisa May 28th, 2010 16:05 ET
    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.

    This isn't really amateurish guess, if they had their family and personal medical histories, blood pressure and samples taken, they must have taken those factors into account. It's funny how society just won't accept what science is showing us just because it is against the usual beliefs.

    May 28, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Corinna Turner

    Brushin my teeth is a very important part of my daily routine.

    May 28, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. I Work 4 A Dentist

    To the idiots who say there isn't a direct correlation. I've worked for a Dentist for the past 10 years, and I can tell you that you're absolutely WRONG. I've seen numerous people over the years (with TERRIBLE oral hygiene) die from some sort of heart related problem. Dentists have known these things for years, pretty sad that the media is finally paying attention to it. Too bad that most people are too stupid to see the signs.

    May 28, 2010 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Athena

    It would be responsible if this blog post made it clear whether this is just a correlation or if any evidence for causation exists.

    May 28, 2010 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. tertsius

    Brushing your teeth is strictly for stain control. FLOSS, FLOSS, FLOSS is what any truth telling Dentist will tell you! Heart problems are a real life issue for bad dental hygiene! So if you want healthy teeth, floss and remember 99% of hollywood has dental caps! Most people do not have teeth that gleam that bright! Failure to floss is a greater danger to poor gums, bad breath and potential health issue then ever missing a brushing! Remember, floss for health and brush for stain removal !

    May 28, 2010 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. PS

    Nothing has compromised my teeth and gums quiet like the greedy dentists! They have poked, prodded and "rot"-canaled my teeth by doing so many unnecessary procedures that I have more problems than I did before. My parents are both in their eighties and have never seen a dentist. They both still have their teeth intact. At age 40, I have spent more time on a dentist's chair than both my parents combined. Yes, simply brush your teeth and stay away from the money-grabbing dentists!

    May 28, 2010 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. mrlewish

    J H Christ. Talk about a biased study. Any of you actually go to the medical website and check out where they go their stats.... I did.. low and behold a much larger percentage of nonbrushers were also smokers. I did some quick calculations.. and the proportion of smokers to heart disease is roughly the same... with a bit more heart problems for the nonbrushers. but not anywhere near the 2:1 ratio cited in the study.

    May 28, 2010 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ADW

    Correction lacrosse: There IS correlation, but not a causal link.

    May 28, 2010 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dirtwood

    Hey all – wake up – YES there is a link between brushing your teeth and heart disease. And there IS SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. I am a Doctor so here's some free advice. When you don't brush your teeth bacteria build up and cause gum disease and inflammation. Daily brushing removes the bacteria. When people who have heart valve replacements go to the Dentist, Doctors will prescribe preventive antibiotics because every time you go to the dentist and he or she manipulates your teeth and especially your gums, millions of bacteria are seeded into your blood stream. These bacteria would latch on to the valve replacement and start to grow and cause problems. That's what the antibiotics are for. When you don't brush your teeth the bacteria in your mouth grow in number (cause bad breath also) and get seeded into your blood stream on a daily basis. Doctors now know that the underlying cause of vascular (and coronary artery – the arteries that supply your heart) disease is inflammation. Your bodies immune system attacks these bacteria in the blood stream and the battleground is the inner lining of your arteries. Like a cut that gets inflammed and infected!! Aspirin reduces inflammation and that's why it can cut your heart attack risk. Smoking also causes significant arterial wall inflammation for unknown reasons – possibly the Nicotine. That inflammation then causes damage to the normally smooth vessel wall and cholesterol in your blood gets caught in the damaged vessel wall and you get "plaque" buildup and arterial narrowing (NOT the same type of plaque as on your teeth as someone earlier suggested). The amount of cholesterol continues to grow, like grease in a pipe and for as of yet unknown reasons can rupture. This sends debris downstream which can quickly block an artery of the heart and cause a heart attack. So there you go – you can choose to listen or not. Brushing your teeth won't hurt you – you only have your health to lose if you want to deny the facts. So – my advice – Stop smoking, brush your teeth, exercise regularly and don't be stupid if you want to live a long(er) life.

    May 28, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mareeh

    "feel too slippery" She prefers that fuzzy feeling from not brushing? I didn't see the interview but she's got to be kidding. And she uses her shirt??? Jessica has become very disturbed and a bit of a slob I"d say. Perhaps she's just lazy, who knows, but definitely not very bright.

    May 28, 2010 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Local Guy

    I am not a doctor, but I have been reading about heart disease for a awhile.

    From what I little I understand, poor dental hygiene and heart disease have been linked.

    Again I am not a doctor. The body's way to fight bleeding to make the blood make the blood clog better once it leaves the body (sticky blood). This process is inflammation. This part is not rocket science, inflammation causes the blood the stick together (the white blood cells). Now if the gums are inflamed for an extended time, the body is always creating bloods that are sticky. That stickiness catches the bad cholesterol in your arteries to stick to things, also your heart.

    Aspirin (thought to reduce heart disease), an anti-inflammatory. So what is alcohol, again an anti-inflammatory. Start seeing the links.

    Moral to the story, (again I am not a doctor) reduce inflammation and reduce bad bad cholesterol. And do not worry, each of us will die of something one day.

    May 29, 2010 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Rona

    How sad for Jessica, but this shouldn't surprise anyone. She like a lot of stars are used to people doing everything for them.

    Wonder how clean she really is?

    Just goes to show, beauty is only skin deep.

    Brush your teeth at least three times a day..

    May 29, 2010 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. hhchaudh

    "Someone tell Jessica Simpson."

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but, her teeth look fine to me...or does she have to have blindingly white teeth because she's a celebrity?

    May 29, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Serene

    Believe what you want but the article actually states the fact: There IS a correlation b/w unhealthy oral hygiene AND heart disease. My wife is a dentist and it is absolutely true.

    Just think about it...bad gums lead to infections which enter blood stream, which in turn enters heart and causes inflammation that could be fatal. Btw, I have a heart problem but it's due to issue in my lung; not bad oral hygiene. Regardless, I visit my wife's office every 3 months as it is even more critical in my case.

    Flossing and brushing twice daily is a no brainer. I admit it's not always an easy routine to keep up with but we must try! Btw, Listerine can be considered BAD by many dentists and rightfully so!

    May 29, 2010 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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