Brothas must practice good dental hygiene because plaque buildup on teeth can raise their risk of heart problems, according to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research and reported on by HealthDay News.

Indiana University School of Dentistry researchers asked 128 blacks and whites to neglect their oral hygiene for scientific research. (None of the participants had preexisting gum disease.)

“We are talking about healthy people who simply neglect oral hygiene and if they were male and black,” said study leader Michael Kowolik, a professor of periodontics and associate dean for graduate education at the school of dentistry. The result? “We found a response from their white blood cells, or neutrophils, that might be a cause for concern,” Kowolik said.

Specifically, researchers noticed that the accumulation of dental plaque in black men caused a major increase in white blood cell activity. (White blood cells fight bacterial infection in the body.)

Why is this a bad thing? Previous academic work found that a high white blood cell count is one of the major risks for heart attack.

But principal investigator Kowolik did have good news.

“This finding could help us identify individuals at greater risk for infections anywhere in the body, including those affecting the heart,” Kowolik said.

Learn how to maintain a healthy smile here.