You've likely been dragged against your will for a number of dental exams over your lifetime. And it only takes a couple of cavities before you start taking your own oral health care very seriously.
But dentists all over the world may be doing more for us than filling cavities and providing dental implants. Each time you visit the dentist may actually decrease your chances of someday having a heart attack or stroke.
A recent study looked at 100,000 adults in Taiwan, half of whom had had their teeth professionally scaled at least once in their lifetime while the other half had never seen a dentist. Researchers found that those who'd visited a dentist even once had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack, and a 13 percent lower chance of stroke than their non dentist-going counterparts.
Dr. Zu-Yin Chen, one of the authors of the study as well as a member of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital's division of cardiology, said of the findings "We knew that dental health contributed to heart attack and stroke, but didn't know that tooth scaling would have more effect on other places in the body and not just the teeth and mouth -- especially not in subjects that did not have dental problems."
Dr. Chen suggests that the act of scaling during dental exams helps remove inflammation-causing bacteria and improves general blood flow.
A Professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Myerburg, points out that the research findings provide an interesting correlation but not necessarily a causal relationship between oral health and heart health.
Dr. Myerburg says "It could be direct, in the sense that inflammation in the gums may trigger inflammation in the heart. Or it may be indirect in that the population that is compulsive about scaling is also compulsive about other health care. They're doing good things for their heart at the same time that they're doing good things for their gums."
Of course, any expert would agree that whether or not the findings show a cause and effect relationship, oral health is extremely important for a number of other reasons. If keeping up regular dental exams happens to do more than result in healthy teeth and gums, then great.
Dr. Myerburg puts it plainly saying "What I think is it's a good idea to take care of your gums. And scaling can be an important part of that."
Though Dr. Chen and her team were not able to adjust for additional risk factors of heart attack and stroke such as weight, race, and smoking in their study, Chen points out that the next step in this research would be to see how said factors might affect their findings.
Since past research has shown gum disease to be correlated with heart disease and premature birth, it would be interesting to see what other specific diseases good oral health might have an affect on.
Make your appoitment for a dental exam with a dentist near you.Sources
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.