You’re Not Brushing Your Teeth Enough — Here’s the Number to Strive For

Oral health might directly impact your heart health.

By Lauren Haslett
woman brushing teeth

Most of our daily tasks don’t require much thought. Things like showering, eating, and using the bathroom are second nature by now, but what if we told you there was a more efficient way to do everyday activities you’ve forgotten about? Correct Me If I’m Wrong… is DoctorOz.com’s new series about improving even the most mundane tasks you tackle on a daily basis so you can live happier and healthier.

Brushing your teeth probably feels like second nature by now. It’s something you’ve done every day – usually twice a day – for as long as you can remember. You probably think you’ve got down, right? But, according to a new study, you’re not brushing your teeth enough – and not doing so may have serious effects on your health.

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A Dec. 2019 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, shows that there’s a very real correlation between the health of your mouth and the health of your heart. Surprised? These findings actually back up several previous studies and research showing a similar link, but this one goes one step further.

The study followed these 161,286 Korean men and women – who had no prior history of certain kinds of heart disease – for just over 10 years. Their brushing habits and visits to professional dentists for cleanings were recorded, and the scientists conducting the study adjusted for other factors that could affect their health outcomes, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise habits.

The results were incredibly revealing. Better oral hygiene – more regular dental cleanings combined with better brushing habits at home – was clearly associated with decreased risks for both heart failure and atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, where the heart may beat much more quickly than normal.

However, while previous research seemed to indicate that brushing twice a day was likely enough to decrease heart disease risk, the authors of this study state that brushing more often could have an even more significant impact. Brushing three times per day was linked with a 12% lower risk of heart failure, and a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation. While this study certainly isn’t definitive proof that brushing your teeth prevents heart disease, it does suggest that good oral hygiene could have a positive long-term effect on heart health.

Why the connection between your mouth and your heart? Honestly, no one is 100% sure yet. Despite the research that’s been done to date, there is no clear answer, and the team of scientists that published this most recent study admitted they can’t be sure either. But they do have a theory: If brushed away, bacteria in the mouth may be unable to move to the bloodstream and then on to other parts of the body.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So any small habit that might lower your risk – especially something as simple as brushing your teeth a little more frequently – is worth taking into consideration. By brushing three times a day, you’ll definitely improve your oral health, and you may just possibly improve your heart health, too.

Correct Tooth-Brushing Technique

Brushing your teeth the right way is just as important as brushing multiple times a day. Your dentist is always a great resource for any questions you have about how to keep your teeth and gums their healthiest. But these tips from the American Dental Association (ADA) can serve as a helpful reminder, so you can feel confident you’re brushing with proper technique every day (all three times!).

Your Oral Hygiene Checklist:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush, and try to place it at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  • Make sure to brush all surfaces – get the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces too.
  • Brush for at least two minutes, each and every time. Set a timer if you need to!
  • Don’t brush too hard. You can actually do damage to your gums by brushing too aggressively. Use gentle, circular, and up-and-down motions to softly massage your teeth and gum line.
  • Replace your toothbrush (or brush heads for electric toothbrushes) regularly. A new brush every three to four months is ideal.
  • Floss. Every. Day. Just do it.

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Article written by Lauren Haslett