People who fail to brush their teeth regularly put themselves at greater risk of heart attack, scientists revealed yesterday.
Bad dental hygiene leads to bleeding gums, which let in around 700 types of bacteria.
These go straight to the bloodstream and are now known to be "independent factors" in causing heart disease -- no matter how fit and healthy the person is.
Professor Howard Jenkinson from the University of Bristol, working with the Royal College of Surgeons, made the discovery after examining how harmful bacteria interact with blood cells.
He explained the findings in detail yesterday to members of the Society for General Microbiology, in Trinity College, Dublin.
Professor Jenkinson said: "Cardiovascular disease is currently the biggest killer in the western world. Oral bacteria . . . are common infecting agents, and we now recognise that bacterial infections are an independent risk factor for heart diseases.
"In other words, it doesn't matter how fit, slim or healthy you are, you're adding to your chances of getting heart disease by having bad teeth."