Dental cleanings reduce risk of heart disease, stroke?

Nope.

From an American Heart Association media release:

Professional dental cleanings may reduce risk of heart attack, stroke

Professional tooth scaling was associated with fewer heart attacks and strokes in a study (Abstract 17704) from Taiwan presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011.

Among more than 100,000 people, those who had their teeth scraped and cleaned (tooth scaling) by a dentist or dental hygienist had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack and 13 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who had never had a dental cleaning. The participants were followed for an average of seven years.

Scientists considered tooth scaling frequent if it occurred at least twice or more in two years; occasional tooth scaling was once or less in two years.

The study included more than 51,000 adults who had received at least one full or partial tooth scaling and a similar number of people matched with gender and health conditions who had no tooth scaling. None of the participants had a history of heart attack or stroke at the beginning of the study.

The study didn’t adjust for heart attack and stroke risk factors — such as weight, smoking and race — that weren’t included in the Taiwan National Health insurance data base, the source of the information used in the analysis.

“Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year,” said Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen, M.D., cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan.

Professional tooth scaling appears to reduce inflammation-causing bacterial growth that can lead to heart disease or stroke, she said.

Hsin-Bang Leu M.D., is the study co-author. Author disclosures and funding are on the abstract.

Type of periodontal disease predicts degree of risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure

In a separate study (abstract 10576), researchers found that the value of markers for gum disease predict heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke in different ways and to different degrees.

Anders Holmlund, D.D.S., Ph.D. Centre for Research and Development of the County Council of Gävleborg, Sweden, and senior consultant; Specialized Dentistry, studied 7,999 participants with periodontal disease and found people with:

  • Fewer than 21 teeth had a 69 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the most teeth.
  • A higher number of deepened periodontal pockets (infection of the gum around the base of the tooth) had a 53 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the fewest pockets.
  • The least amount of teeth had a 2.5 increased risk of congestive heart failure compared to those with the most teeth.
  • The highest incidence of gum bleeding had a 2.1 increased risk of stroke compared to those with the lowest incidence.

While it’s a good idea to see your dentist regularly for oral hygiene purposes, the claims here are likely invalid. Aside from the weak statistical associations and failure to consider important confounding risk factors, any correlation between dental visits and improved non-oral health is most likely economic in nature — i.e., wealthier (and, therefore, healthier) people tend to see dentists more often that poorer, less healthy people.

7 thoughts on “Dental cleanings reduce risk of heart disease, stroke?”

  1. I’m a dentist, 42 years now.
    I suspect these studies are garbage. I agree that people of higher economic and sometimes educational status tend sometimes to look after their mouths as well as their general health. Many people who have completely free access to dental care do not have the desire to use this service. They just don’t value their teeth, nor probably other preventive medicine. It’s not an economic issue.
    My belief is that there may be coincidental factors but bad gums probably do not cause heart problems. That just seems like marketing to me.
    People who know better smoke, even many medical professionals..
    It’s free to exercise (eg. jog)
    These are not economic or always educational issues.
    These are lifestyle choices. People just don’t take responsibility..

  2. Dentistry is the biggest mainstreet scam going. General brushing and flossing will keep your teeth healthy. But you do have to be diligent about it.

    The twice a year visits are to pay for your dentist’s kid’s college tuition. Genetic disposition is completely glossed over in discussion of dental problems. Some people have good teeth, and some aren’t so lucky. I have great teeth and can’t remember when I last saw a dentist.

  3. The press release you have printed is embargoed by the AHA until Sunday morning at 11 am EST. Your story has broken this embargo. We ask you to respect the embargo and remove the story until that time. Thank you.

  4. Could it also be that people who so much do not care about their teeth probably do not care about their heart? Oh. That’s stating the Junkman’s thesis in the negative.

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