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The Surprising Benefits of Flossing Your Teeth

By Skye Sherman  •   August 7, 2023
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Nov 20, 2023

Photo Credit: by Sora Shimazaki, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by Sora Shimazaki, Pexels.com

Most of us know the importance of good dental hygiene. If you don’t want to spend more time in a dentist’s chair than you need to for routine cleanings, then keeping your teeth in tip-top shape is of the utmost importance! Twice-daily brushing is the bare minimum for most people, but you might be underestimating how important it is to floss every day, too.

Separately, more and more people are becoming aware of heart disease and the best practices to prevent it. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle with a regular exercise routine are two of the most powerful steps you can take to take good care of your heart.

However, are you aware of the connection between flossing and your heart? While these two areas of the body seem like totally unrelated organs with totally unrelated functions, the truth is that flossing and heart health are intimately interconnected.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why you should prioritize your dental care for better heart health (and a clean mouth, too). You might be surprised to learn of the many reasons why flossing is good for your heart, but the good news is that it’s true, and it’s one more tool in your arsenal to keep your body healthy and thriving, from head to toe.

How important is flossing your teeth for heart health?

Curious about how flossing and your heart possibly have anything to do with each other?

An article in EatingWell shares the scientific findings: “data suggests that periodontal disease may indeed increase the risk for arteriosclerosis (where plaque builds up in arteries), as this oral bacteria may get into the bloodstream and/or cause inflammation that sets the stage for plaque formation, though more research is needed.”

The article also reports, “Research shows that you can remove up to 80% of interdental plaque by flossing—and that can lower your risk of developing cavities and prevent periodontal disease.” Flossing might seem like a simple task that doesn’t accomplish much, but as you can see, taking just a minute or two out of your day to floss can prevent a whole host of complications that are costly, frustrating, and painful to deal with later.

Another article, published by Daily Sabah, reports, “Research conducted in Japan revealed that not brushing before bedtime can increase the risk of heart diseases. … The research focused on cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, heart rhythm disorder, heart attack, chest pain, and heart valve and aortic diseases requiring surgery.”

The results are worth noting: “Those who brushed twice a day and those who brushed only at night had significant higher cardiovascular disease (estimated) survival rates than those who did not brush at all. The findings of the study revealed that brushing only in the morning was insufficient and brushing at night proved vital.”

As you can see, the best course of action is to brush in the morning and evening. However, brushing in the evening is of special importance so that you clean your teeth thoroughly before letting them sit all night with bacteria on them.

As Dentistry puts it, “These implications are consistent with the theory that the intraoral bacterial load increases during sleep at night due to reduced salivary flow.” Brushing at night to maintain good oral health is essential for not only dental hygiene but also your heart.

Or, as an article on MSN states, “Thinking of skipping that before-bed brush of the teeth? Think again. Researchers have found avoiding a night-time scrub puts you at a higher risk of heart disease. A new study suggests oral hygiene habits can have an impact on cardiovascular conditions, increasing chances of developing complications such as angina, heart failure or heart attacks.”

Why flossing can help your heart

As you can see, flossing is important for heart health. But how exactly does flossing affect your heart when your mouth and heart are two completely different body parts in two different locations?

Cleveland Clinic makes it sound simple: “Research shows the association could be due in part to periodontal, or gum disease, leading to inflammation and bacteria in the heart.”

HealthOne puts it another way: “Healthy teeth may also reduce your risk of clogged arteries. The link between oral and cardiovascular health, inflammation can lead to both gum disease and obstructive arterial plaque. Researchers also think that oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and contribute to damaging systemic inflammation.”

In other words, bacteria in your mouth means bacteria in other parts of your body, including your bloodstream, which obviously has a strong connection to your heart. You don’t want to expose your heart to unnecessary stress by having to combat bacteria from simply not brushing your teeth at night. Keep your heart healthy and your mouth happy too by brushing and flossing your teeth on a twice-daily schedule with a special focus on a deep cleaning before you hit the hay. Brushing and flossing help to remove plaque, that gooey film on your teeth. Plaque build up in the arteries that supply the heart are the cause of heart disease which is why brushing and flossing at night can make such a difference in the prevention of heart disease.

Remember that no matter how well you brush or floss, there is still the possibility that you will experience heart disease. The main culprit in the development of heart disease is inflammation and while inflammation in the mouth can contribute to heart disease, systemic inflammation also plays a role. Heart disease is a result of other lifestyle or environmental factors, and sometimes it can come from genetic influences.

Those suffering from heart disease may require prescription medications for heart failure such as Aldactone or Inspra. Always consult with a medical professional if you are experiencing concerning symptoms or if you want to know whether prescription heart meds are right for you.

Other health benefits of flossing your teeth

Flossing doesn’t only help your heart. Did you know flossing can also help to control diabetes, improve cognitive impairment and dementia outcomes, enhance fertility, and even strengthen your immune system?

It’s true! According to EatingWell, “Just as flossing helps lessen oral inflammation, it also helps with chronic inflammation in other parts of your body. In fact, research shows that periodontitis (gum inflammation) is associated with systemic inflammation.” Essentially, any conditions affected by inflammation will be worsened by poor mouth hygiene health.

Obviously, chronic inflammation dampens your immune system, so limiting the inflammation you experience from not flossing regularly can help.

It can also affect your digestive system. EatingWell continues, “Research shows that patients with inflammatory bowel disease often first experience changes in their oral health before gastrointestinal symptoms appear.”

The article also points out that periodontal bacteria may play a role in cognitive decline: “A large research study looking at data from more than 4,000 subjects … showed that older adults with signs of gum disease and mouth infections at the start of the study were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the course of the study.”

There’s even a connection between oral health and female fertility. A study shared in the EatingWell article found that women “who had a specific type of oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease were nearly four times less likely to become pregnant compared to women who did not have this bacteria.” Even if you do get pregnant, your mouth hygiene can affect your baby. The article reports the findings of another study, stating, “Pregnant women with gingivitis who got treatment had a 56% lower risk of preterm birth and were more likely to give birth to higher-weight newborns compared to those who did not receive treatment.”

As you can see, it’s hard to be healthy at an optimal level if your mouth is unhealthy. If you can remove up to 80% of interdental plaque by flossing (which will not only lower your risk of developing cavities and periodontal disease, but also lower your risk for many other diseases and health conditions, as you can see), then you should probably work this simple, inexpensive chore into your daily hygiene routine!

How to floss and brush properly

Now that you see the importance of flossing and brushing your teeth to bolster your heart health, you may be wondering about best practices so that you get the maximum output for your minimal oral health input.

You can start by avoiding acidic and sugary foods like soda, candy, and even popcorn, which can cause small cuts in your mouth due to its sharp hulls. In addition, change out your toothbrush on a regular basis. Every three months is usually a good rule of thumb, but you can also buy a toothbrush that has bristle indicators that will change colors when it’s time for a fresh brush.

Also, it’s best to use a soft brush so you don’t damage your gum tissue. Make sure it’s the right size and shape to be able to access all areas of your mouth.

Once you’re prepared with the right equipment, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet then brush your gum line (and teeth) using small, circular motions. Don’t scrub too hard; it’s the daily habit that will keep your mouth clean, not the vigorous or aggressive approach to scrubbing off the day’s gunk!

As you brush, make sure to get every surface of your mouth, including all over your teeth and even your tongue and inside your cheeks. Don’t forget your back teeth! They can be easy to miss or go over too quickly, yet they can be subject to a lot of buildup since you don’t see or feel them as much as you do your front teeth. Make sure to pay special attention also to your chewing surfaces and your tongue, which can be a breeding ground for fungus. (Gross!)

Equally important to brushing is flossing, which can help to remove plaque and buildup from between your teeth. You can use whatever floss you want, whether it’s the typical string kind or a handheld flosser with a pick at the end. Make sure to gently slide the floss between the teeth and around the base of the teeth, dipping below the gum line carefully.

Flossing is a daily habit! But even if you forget at times to keep this included in your dental routine, make sure to floss at least a few times a week.

Using a waterpik or specialized brushes that can clean between teeth can also be helpful tools in addition to flossing, or if flossing is a challenge for you. Adding mouthwash can be another helpful step in your oral care routine, and using an electric toothbrush can make your routine even smarter and more fun, all while providing an even deeper clean.

Make sure to talk to a dentist about whether a fluoride toothpaste is right for you, and if you have sensitive teeth, you might want to check out Sensodyne, which a dentist can recommend if needed.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.