Heart Health link with Healthy Teeth

Brushing your teeth does more than only prevent tooth decay; healthy teeth and gums help to keep the rest of you healthy as well.

A Scottish study of over 11,000 adults links gum disease with heart problems.

Inflammation in the body, including in the mouth and gums, can contribute to the build up of clogged arteries. The researchers concluded that in order to avoid inflammation in your mouth and the rest of your body as well, you need to brush your teeth twice every day, because they found those with poor oral hygiene also tested positive in blood samples for proteins that cause inflammation.

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

Gingivitis is an infection of the gums usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Gums become inflamed, swollen, and bleed. Bacteria in plaque, which forms on teeth, can lead to chronic inflammation of the gum line and tooth loss. It is this chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease that has been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Good oral hygiene means more than brushing your teeth; flossing is also necessary. Previous research has also found that brushing, flossing to take care of your teeth and gums is good for your heart.

Studies have shown that those with bacteria that cause gum disease have thicker carotid arteries.

How do bacteria in the mouth affect the heart? The mouth is home to hundreds of bacterial species.  Possibly, the bacteria enter the bloodstream from inflamed gums, which bleed and allow oral bacterias to travel to the rest of the body and provoke inflammation.

Keeping our toothbrushes is important too. We go to great lengths with hygiene by hand washing; cleaning plates and cutlery thoroughly, and then we simply rinse our toothbrush with cold water and store it beside toothbrushes that may have just been used by a sick family member. It seems to be a blind spot in our awareness of disease prevention.

The bathroom is the most germ-laden room in the house, and toothbrushes stored all together or left lying at the side of a washbasin are vulnerable to all manner of germs.  Also, when a toilet is flushed, a fine mist of pollution spreads through the air, contaminating any surfaces it lands upon.

When toothbrushes are tested for bacteria, they are literally teeming with them. Research from Manchester University has found that the average toothbrush contained around ten million germs, including a high percentage of potentially fatal bacteria such as staphylococci, streptococcus, E. coli and Candida, meaning that there is a potential to contract more serious disease from our toothbrush.

Harley Street dental surgeon from London, Dr Tariq Idris says that the virus for diseases like hepatitis A, B and C have all been found on toothbrushes. “The spores of hepatitis B can survive for months. A moist toothbrush is also a perfect culture base for all sorts of horrible bacteria. We wouldn't leave our cutlery in the bathroom and then use it over and over again without washing it, yet we do exactly that with a toothbrush. We put this object into our mouths, scrub away at our gums, causing tiny little lacerations that means the bacteria can jump straight from the brush into our blood stream. And from then on it is just a numbers game as to whether or not you are going to be affected by what you have just injected into your blood supply."

Dr Idris says "I believe that in ten or 15 years we will all be regularly sterilising our toothbrushes, or using disposable ones."

Tips for Toothbrush Hygiene

  • Never share your toothbrush
  • Change your toothbrush at least every three months

  • Put your toothbrush in sunlight as often as possible, or find a way of regularly sterilising it. (see www.germterminatoraustralia.com.au)
  • Avoid hard bristles which are more likely to cause nicks in the gum, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream

  • If you have an open plan bathroom, put the toilet seat down before flushing


Brushing and flossing your teeth with a clean toothbrush don't replace good diet and exercise, but it’s certainly worth knowing about.