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Dental Hygiene Habits Developed Early May Help Heart Later

It’s a domestic struggle unfolding nightly in millions of households across the nation: Parents nagging kids to brush their teeth, and kids retorting with something along the lines of “Don’t have a heart attack, Mom!” Well, actually Junior, it’s YOU who might be having the heart attack down the road if you fail to develop good dental hygiene habits as a child.

That’s the unavoidable conclusion of a fascinating study recently published in theBritish Medical Journal which compared dental hygiene and heart attacks among 11,869 middle-aged men and women. Of these, 71% brushed twice a day, 24% brushed once a day, and 5% rarely or never brushed at all! Compared to the conscientious brushers, the brush avoiders were 70% more likely to have suffered a cardiovascular event (e.g., heart attack) over the course of the eight-year study — while once-a-day brushers were at 30% increased risk (incidentally, 170 of the 555 attacks were fatal).

Lazy brushing habits may simply reflect an overall lackadaisical attitude toward one’s health — but it’s also true that dental neglect can aggravate inflammation, which significantly contributes to heart disease. If you’re among the ranks of the non-brushing public, do your heart (and folks around you) a favor by flossing and brushing twice a day, and maintaining a healthy weight, as excess pounds can triple your risk of periodontal disease as well as your odds of having bad breath.

Bonus: Did you know raisins could actually help you prevent cavities and gum disease, thanks to phytochemicals that suppress bacterial growth? Also try tea to fight tooth decay.

 Published July 1, 2010

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