Dental Hygeine and Heart Disease

Cause or effect?

Young adults who lose their teeth to cavities or gum disease may have an increased risk of dying from heart disease later in life, a new study suggests. (…) Tooth loss is an indicator of poor oral health. Scientists speculate that the bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease may enter the bloodstream and either damage the blood vessel lining directly or trigger inflammation in the body that then contributes to heart disease. – Reuters

Actually this isn’t exactly news. We’ve been hearing about this correlation for years. And as for the cause and effect relationship between oral hygiene and heart health, this is matter of speculation.

The chief culprit in the mouth is Streptococcus mutans, with Lactobacillus species also playing a role. These germs thrive on sugar, and every time we eat a meal or a snack, sugar levels in the mouth increase and nourish the resident bacteria. Within 20 minutes, sticky, destructive plaque begins to form on our teeth, and decay is underway.

The pathogenic S. mutans bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and infect the interior linings of the heart, causing infectious endocarditis, a very serious disease. In the worst-case scenario, this can lead to damaged heart valves and congestive heart failure. Concern over the possibility of endocarditis is one reason why dentists usually administer antibiotics before performing invasive procedures on susceptible individuals, such as those with periodontal disease. – More

Perhaps S. mutans is the culprit or perhaps a diet high in sugar leads both to heart disease and tooth decay. The fact is that a third actor may be causing the two. At one time, Helicobacter pylori was suspected of being a player in this correlation.

Whatever the truth, good oral hygeine is always recommended if not for dental health then at least for personal care and for social reasons! Brushing after every meal is also a good way to reduce snacking (how can I get my teeth dirty again?!).

And as always – cut out the sugar.

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