A specially-formulated toothpaste that flags where plaque is on the teeth could help prevent heart attacks, a new study has found.
The toothpaste was found to remove twice as much plaque as normal toothpaste.
It also helped to reduce inflammation levels by 29%, which is almost the same kind of reduction achieved by statins (37%) that are used to lower cholesterol.
For the study, researchers administered either special or normal toothpaste to 61 patients, who then used it for 60 days.
Participants’ plaque and inflammation levels were tested before and after the trial.
People who used the specially-formulated toothpaste reduced their plaque levels by 49%, while those using standard toothpaste reduced theirs by 24%.
Inflammation levels in the first group fell by 29%, while those in the control group experienced a rise in inflammation by 25%.
Reducing inflammation is important as people who have gum disease have higher rates of coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.
“It isn’t clear whether this is because of a direct biological link between the two - for example, that the process of inflammation of the gums directly affects the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries - or because people who have gum disease are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyle habits, which would directly contribute towards coronary heart disease,” a spokesperson for The British Heart Foundation told The Huffington Post UK.
“One thing we can confidently say is that having gum disease increases the risk of endocarditis (where the inner lining of the heart becomes infected), especially in patients who have had previous cardiac surgery or who have certain heart conditions.”
It is estimated that around 50,000 men and 32,000 women have a heart attack each year in England.
Lead author of the study, Professor Charles Hennekens, of Florida Atlantic University, said using the toothpaste “is a fairly simple thing to do, yet it seems to have a big impact”.
“And there are no side effects that we know of. You get the benefit of better oral health and potentially big heart benefits too,” he said, according to The Telegraph.
Professor Hennekens, who was part of the team that discovered aspirin could benefit heart health back in the nineties, said the new finding could have policy implications for millions of people.
The team now wants to trial the toothpaste on more people with heart disease, to see if it can prevent heart attacks and strokes.