If you're not brushing after your meals, you could be doing a lot more than giving yourself bad breath and yellow chompers.
A new study confirms the evidence that has been building for years: People who brush their teeth the most have the lowest risk of heart disease. And people who brush the least may be setting themselves up for a lifetime of cardiovascular woes.
That's in addition to being the most unwanted partner during "spin the bottle."
Researchers asked roughly 12,000 Scots about their teeth- brushing habits, and found that over the course of eight years, people who said they "rarely or never brushed" (turns out some people will admit to that, at least in Scotland) had a 70 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke than those who brushed at least twice a day.
Those who seldom brushed also had higher levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, according to the study published in BMJ. Some docs even prescribe cholesterol meds based on CRP levels, and not cholesterol.
Turns out these people don't need statins--just a new toothbrush.
Other studies have made a similar connection between bad teeth and grimy gums and poor cardiovascular health. One recent study found that periodontal disease boosts heart disease risk by 19 percent, and up to 44 percent in patients under the age of 65.
Your own mother probably taught you the basic keys to a clean mouth years ago, and her advice still holds up today: Brush after meals and floss daily. But don't stop there-- you can also get a boost with green tea, which has been found to lower the risk of gum disease, and fish oil.
One recent study found that people with the lowest levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA were 1.5 times more likely to have periodontal problems such as tooth decay and gum disease than those who got the most.
Of course, the best oral hygiene habits in the world won't make much of a difference if you're constantly brushing off the residue of cola, candy, cake and anything that comes from a drive-through window--so make sure your healthy lifestyle begins with what you put in your mouth in the first place.
Then, get a firm grip on some soft bristles and take better care of your beak. Your heart will thank you... and so will your spouse.