Regular visits to the dentist for tooth cleaning may provide more than just a brighter smile.
According to data compiled by researchers in Taiwan, people who had their teeth professionally scraped and cleaned had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack and 13 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who never had a dental cleaning.
Poor oral hygiene has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
The researcher who presented the findings of the multi-year study at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando on Sunday surmised that professional tooth cleaning appears to reduce inflammation-causing bacterial growth that can lead to heart disease.
"Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year," said Dr. Zu-Yin Chen, a cardiology fellow at Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, who presented the findings.
The analysis of more 100,000 people beginning in 2007 was based on data in the Taiwan National Health insurance data base. None of the study subjects had a history of prior heart attack or stroke, but the analysis did not adjust for risk factors such as smoking or obesity.
Researchers said a higher frequency of professional tooth cleaning led to a greater reduction in heart risk. They defined higher frequency as at least two visits to the dentist for a cleaning in two years.