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Cleaning teeth can brush off heart disease

People who fail to brush their teeth twice a day have a higher chance of heart disease, research showed today.

The link between gum disease and heart problems is already known but experts have now been able to measure the effect of daily brushing.

A new study found that people who never or rarely brush their teeth are 70pc more likely to suffer heart disease as those who brush twice a day.

However, the overall risk from poor oral hygiene remains quite low, they said.

Experts from University College London analysed data for more than 11,000 people with an average age of 50 taking part in the Scottish Healthy Survey.

They looked at people's brushing habits as well as their lifestyles, such as whether they smoked or took exercise.

People were asked how often they visited their dentist and how often they brushed their teeth, while separate details were collected on people's medical histories, blood pressure, and their family's history of heart disease.

Just over six out of 10 (62pc) people visited their dentist every six months while 71pc said they brushed twice a day.

During eight years of follow-up, there were 555 examples of serious heart problems, mostly caused by heart disease, including heart attacks.

Of these, 170 were fatal.

The experts found that people who never or rarely brushed their teeth were 70pc more likely to suffer heart disease than those who brushed twice a day.

Poor oral hygiene was also linked to low-grade inflammation in the blood.

Writing online in the British Medical Journal, Professor Richard Watt said: "Our results confirmed and further strengthened the suggested association between oral hygiene and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Furthermore inflammatory markers were significantly associated with a simple measure of poor oral health behaviour.

"Future studies will be needed to confirm whether the association is in fact causal or merely a risk-marker."

Judy O'Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "If you don't brush your teeth, your mouth can become infected with bacteria which can cause inflammation."