Modern dentistry has come a long way.
Not only do we have advanced x-ray imaging, local anesthetic and advanced procedures that make once-terrible dental procedures safe, easy and effective, we also know a lot more about the human body as well.
Dentistry is discovering how the body is truly an interconnected system—what happens in one area can have a ripple effect throughout the body, and this means your dental health can both directly and indirectly affect your overall health.
Oral health has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and hemorrhagic stroke.
There are even links between pregnancy and dental health.
In this post, we’ll be covering some of the many ways dental decay and gum disease can result in profound health impacts in other areas of the body.
Links to Heart Disease
There is a lot of research that shows a strong link between oral health and heart disease, and inflammation is one of the main factors of concern.
Oral bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause health problems, including leading to inflammation in the body.
Oral bacteria can make its way into the bloodstream easily from its location on the teeth and gums due to excessive bleeding which occurs in periodontal disease (gum disease) and advanced stages of dental decay. When this happens, it easily makes its way into the arteries of the heart, causing inflammation.
Research has shown that people with poor dental health are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with good oral health. People are also at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease if they have periodontal disease.
There are 2 main diseases of the heart related to poor oral health.
1. Coronary artery disease—Also called simply Coronary Heart Disease, this is a condition where plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath and even heart attack.
2. Infective endocarditis—This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, and it can be deadly. It often occurs in people who have had dental procedures, because bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and settle on the heart. This is why it is so important to find a dental clinic that knows what it’s doing and can prevent this from happening.
Streptococcus Mutans and Its Relationship to Heart Disease
Streptococcus mutans is the most commonly found bacteria in the human mouth. It is a major cause of tooth decay and is one of the largest cardiovascular risk factors.
S. mutans produces lactic acid as it breaks down sugar. This lactic acid can corrode teeth and damage the gums. It can also get into the bloodstream and cause problems elsewhere in the body.
Studies have shown that S. mutans can attach to platelets, which are tiny cells that help coagulate blood and form clots. When these bacteria attach to platelets, they create a sticky surface that can attract more platelets. This leads to the formation of blood clots, which can block blood vessels and cause heart attack or stroke.
So, what does this all mean? Heart disease and oral health are linked together by bacteria and inflammation. Therefore, keeping your mouth healthy is important not only for your teeth and gums, but also for your heart.
There are a few things that can be done to reduce the amount of S. mutans in the mouth and lower the risk of heart disease. One is to maintain good dental health by brushing your teeth regularly with a fluoride toothpaste. Another is to floss your teeth every day. And finally, you can drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. These things will help keep your mouth healthy and free of bacteria.
Dental Exams for Optimal Oral Health
Maintaining good oral hygiene on your own simply isn’t enough in the long term. It is necessary to visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. Dental exams enable your dentist to detect any early signs of tooth decay, gum disease or other oral health problems. They can also spot potential problems with your teeth, gums and jaw that you may not be aware of.
During a dental exam, your dentist will:
- Check for cavities
- Check for gum disease
- Examine your teeth and gums
- Take x-rays (if necessary)
- Remove tartar and plaque buildup
These things are important in maintaining good oral health and preventing the development of heart disease. So be sure to schedule regular dental appointments and take care of your teeth!