People who visit the dentist regularly to have their teeth cleaned may lower their risk for heart attack or stroke, new research suggests.
The finding is to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.
In following more than 100,000 people with no history of heart problems or stroke for an average of seven years, researchers from Taiwan found those who had their teeth scraped and cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist at least twice a year for two years had a 24% lower risk for heart attack and a 13% lower risk for stroke compared to those who never went to the dentist or only went once in two years.
“Protection from heart disease and stroke was more pronounced in participants who got tooth scaling at least once a year,” said Dr. Emily (Zu-Yin) Chen, a cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei in a news release from the American Heart Association.
Professional teeth cleanings seem to reduce the growth of bacteria, which causes inflammation and can lead to the development of heart disease or stroke, she added.
One U.S. expert said links between oral health and heart health are well-known.
“The results are not surprising since there have been many studies showing association between inflammation and heart disease,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and Director, Nuclear Cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City. “With tooth scaling, the thought is that chronic inflammation is decreased. Good dental hygiene is recommended for all patients,” he added.
The study authors noted they did not account for other heart attack and stroke risk factors, such as weight, smoking and race, not included in the Taiwan National Health insurance database they used as the source of their information.
Phillips pointed to other limitations to the study, as well. “It is unclear the additional risk factors that these patients had in each group beyond those recorded in their database, so we do not know if they are comparing similar patients,” he said. “In addition, those people who are proactive about their health may have lower risk of heart disease and stroke, independent of their risk factors. People who go for routine dental work, such as tooth scaling, are likely to be in this group.”
Meanwhile, a separate study from Sweden revealed different types of gum disease may predict the degree of risks for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. The researchers found that fewer teeth and a higher number of infections around the base of teeth increase a person’s risk for congestive heart failure or heart attack. Moreover, they found greater incidence of gum bleeding was also associated with an increased risk for stroke.
Owners are typically getting the devices to ease their pets’ pain, discomfort from an abnormal bite.
THURSDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) — Cynthia Duggan was so surprised to learn her Australian shepherd puppy, Molly, needed dental braces that she hesitated to give her veterinarian the OK.
But after mulling over the $1,000 orthodontic procedure with her husband, the couple finally decided it would be money well spent.
“She’s an incredible dog,” said Duggan of the 9-month-old puppy, already showing potential as a herding champion. “We felt like she deserved it.”
The braces weren’t for appearances, though. Unlike braces for humans, who often endure an ugly mouth full of metal in pursuit of a perfect smile, canine braces aren’t applied for cosmetic reasons. Instead these “oral appliances” alleviate pain or discomfort from an abnormal bite, usually caused by a few crooked teeth.
In Molly’s case, a large upper tooth protruded like an elephant’s tusk, preventing the pup from comfortably closing her tiny mouth, said Dr. Larry Baker, of Northgate Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Decatur, Ill.
To correct the problem, Baker attached a rubber band, called a power chain, to the wayward tooth, successfully pulling it back into place in just three weeks.
“She tolerated it well,” said Duggan. “We were pretty thrilled with the way it turned out.”
Baker has used metal braces on dogs, like the ones teenagers wear, but instead prefers to create his own from the material used to fill cavities in people.
“My dog braces do not typically look like human braces,” explained Baker, one of only about 125 board-certified veterinary dentists in the world. “Yet, they accomplish the same result: moving teeth.”
Dr. Daniel Carmichael, a board-certified veterinary dentist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, said the critical ages for detecting orthodontic problems — only some of which are corrected by braces — are during the first several months of a dog’s life. A veterinarian should check the “baby teeth” at around eight to 10 weeks of age, he said, and then again around six to eight months of age when the permanent adult teeth are present.
Most orthodontic problems that crop up in dogs are hereditary, he said. Breeds predisposed to such dental issues include Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Shelties and Labrador Retrievers.
“Not all dogs are entitled to the perfect bite, but all dogs are entitled to a healthy, functional bite,” said Carmichael.
Braces realign an abnormal bite to prevent problems, he said, such as difficulty eating, closing the mouth, or trauma to the teeth and gums.
Invisible braces — a transparent, removable alignment originally developed for people — are the latest tool in veterinary orthodontics. The primary benefit is that dogs only need to be sedated one time to create a mold of the teeth. Once the clear acrylic aligners are worn by the dog for as many hours a day as possible, he said, correction occurs in about four to six weeks, which is much faster than in human patients.
He said the condition most responsive to invisible braces is base narrow canines, or “linguoversion,” where the lower teeth point inward, injuring the roof of the mouth.
Carmichael only sees one or two orthodontic cases a month that require some form of treatment. However, Baker of Northgate Veterinary Dentistry sees much more, about one dog a week (and occasionally cats) at his Midwest practice. Not all orthodontic cases, though, require braces to correct a bad bite. Other treatment options include extraction, surgery and tooth extensions.
Such dental problems, of course, are not something the average dog owner has to contend with. “The chances are, they won’t be faced with the prospect of having to get their dog braces,” said Carmichael.
Celery protects your teeth in two ways, says Lana Rozenberg, D.D.S., a holistic dentist and founder of Rozenberg Dental Day Spa in New York City. The extra chewing it requires produces plenty of saliva, which neutralizes the bacteria Streptococcus mutans that causes cavities. Additionally, chomping on naturally abrasive foods massages gums and cleans between teeth. Try This: Snack on a handful of raw celery or carrots once a day.
Want to keep your teeth? Follow these surprising tips:
1. Break a sweat
Exercise may lower the risk of gum disease, says Samuel Low, D.D.S., former president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
2. Power up
Use a high-quality electric toothbrush with a small head, says New York City periodontist Greg Diamond, D.D.S.: “They’re optimized to remove plaque.”
If your gums recede (as even healthy gums can), interproximal brushes, which look like tiny pipe cleaners, may work better than floss, which can miss plaque on a root.
4. Wait to brush
It takes 30 minutes to an hour for saliva to neutralize the acids in foods. “Brushing right after eating can brush the enamel away,” Diamond warns.
5. Watch your gums
Insist that your dentist examine your gums with a probe. If the gum pocket surrounding a tooth is deeper than 3 mm, you might have gum disease.
6. Get off the bottle
Many bottled waters lack fluoride. Consider adding a filter to your tap instead.
7. Wet your whistle
Teeth depend on saliva to remove microbes. If your mouth is dry, a prescription rinse can help.