Brushing your teeth may help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggested today.
A US study found that people with gum disease were more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis - the narrowing of blood vessels that can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
While past research has suggested a link between periodontal disease and vascular disease, researchers said their study was the strongest evidence yet of the relationship.
The researchers, writing in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, measured bacteria levels in the mouths of 657 people with no history of stroke or heart attack.
They also measured the thickness of the participants' carotid arteries - which are measured to identify atherosclerosis.
The team found that people with a higher level of the specific bacteria that causes periodontal disease also had an increased carotid artery thickness.
They were able to show that atherosclerosis was associated with the type of bacteria that causes periodontal disease - and not any other oral bacteria.
Dr Desvarieux said one possible explanation for the link was that the bacteria that cause gum disease may migrate throughout the body via the bloodstream and stimulate the immune system - causing inflammation that results in the clogging of the arteries.