The risk of heart disease can be reduced to a great extent in women who take good care of their dental health and regularly visit the dentist.
The analysis compared people who went to the dentist during the previous two years with those who did not and used data from nearly 7,000 people ages 44-88 enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study,
However, researchers did not find a similar benefit for men.
"Many studies have found associations between dental care and cardiovascular disease, but our study is the first to show that general dental care leads to fewer heart attacks, strokes, and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes in a causal way," said study lead author Timothy Brown, assistant adjunct professor of health policy and management at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.
Data from the Health and Retirement Study had been collected every two years from 1996 to 2004.
This longitudinal study followed the same individuals over time, and each biennial survey included questions on whether subjects had visited the dentist and whether they had experienced a heart attack, stroke, angina or congestive heart failure during the prior two years.
The fact that men and women did not benefit equally from dental care did not completely surprise the researchers.
"We think the findings reflect differences in how men and women develop cardiovascular disease. Other studies suggest that estrogen has a protective effect against heart disease because it helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis. It's not until women hit menopause around age 50 to 55 that they start catching up with men," said Stephen Brown, study co-author.
The findings are published online in September end issue of the journal Health Economics.