Dental scaling and atrial fibrillation
TAIPEI, TAIWAN. Periodontitis (inflammation of gum tissue) has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and elevation of the systemic inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP). Periodontitis is, in turn, associated with poor oral hygiene and can largely be avoided by regular teeth brushing, flossing, and periodic visits to the dentist for a thorough cleaning and dental scaling. Systemic inflammation is also associated with atrial fibrillation (AF), so it is perhaps not too surprising that a group of Taiwanese physicians now report a clear link between poor oral hygiene and the development of AF.

Their study involved 28,900 Taiwanese citizens without a history of cardiac arrhythmia. The average age of the participants was 68 years and 55% were male. The group was followed for 4.6 years during which time 478 participants (2.8%) developed AF. The incidence of new-onset AF in participants who had undergone dental scaling at least once a year for 3 consecutive years (3,391 subjects) was 2.2% as compared to 3.0% in those who had not undergone dental scaling (13,564 subjects).

Other factors associated with the development of AF were congestive heart failure (2-fold increase in risk), coronary artery disease (64% relative risk increase), chronic renal disease (47% relative risk increase), and hypertension (38% relative risk increase). In contrast, just one dental scaling a year reduced the risk of developing AF by 33%, whilst more frequent procedures decreased the risk even further. The Taiwanese researchers conclude that improvements in oral hygiene through dental scaling may be a simple and effective way to reduce systemic inflammation and prevent the development of AF.
Chen, SJ, et al. Dental scaling and atrial fibrillation. International Journal of Cardiology, February 27, 2013 [Epub ahead of print]