Problems involving your teeth and gums may ultimately affect your heart, and the opposite is also true. This is because these two body parts are connected to and share the same bloodstream. However, the causes and mechanisms are inexact and may vary from one condition to another.
Gum and teeth-related heart problems
One well-documented heart condition that is strongly associated with poor oral health is endocarditis. Endocarditis is a life-threatening condition characterized by inflammation of the heart’s tissues. Those who have pre-existing heart conditions, such as rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and congenital heart disease are especially at risk.
Several studies also suggest a modest correlation between poor oral health and the risk of stroke and heart attacks. However, research is still inconclusive concerning the causal relationship between the two.
How can infection from the tooth spread to the heart?
There are two ways an infection can spread to the heart or affect it indirectly. The first mechanism is bacteria traveling through the bloodstream. Dental caries or tooth decay, in particular, expose the capillaries found near the root of the teeth to bacteria. Consequently, infectious bacteria travel through the bloodstream and reach the heart, where they can multiply and produce toxins that can cause life-threatening endocarditis. The infection and inflammation may lead to the death of cardiac tissue, which, in turn, can cause a fatal heart attack. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can not only be a pain but can also kill a person, especially those who already have pre-existing conditions or a history of heart ailments.
The gums are also lined with capillaries that are linked with the heart. As such, bacterial infections associated with poor oral health, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, can also spread to the heart. The toxic bacteria can enter the bloodstream and can end up in the heart where they can then cause deadly endocarditis. People who have compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients, are at significant risk.
The second, indirect mechanism through which bacteria can affect the heart is by causing the immune system to overreact. Inflammation per se is not caused by bacteria but by your body’s response to them. The immune hyper reaction can trigger multiple tissue damage across the heart.
Lifestyle and genetics also play a role in increasing a person’s predisposition to develop heart disease, not as a result of poor oral health by itself, but as an independent condition. For example, smoking can cause problems both to the heart and teeth. Any infection that may spread from the teeth to the heart would then be an inevitable consequence of the risk of disease that was already increased by smoking.
Can tooth cleaning and plaque cement cure heart disease?
Once the bacteria spreads to the heart, brushing, cleaning, or sealing the plaque will no longer stop its spread. Instead, these actions can only prevent more bacteria from reproducing and spreading. To treat the bacteria that is already in your bloodstream and possibly in your heart, it will require more sophisticated procedures, such as antibiotic therapy. Antibiotic therapy is also given to patients with heart ailments before any dental treatment, such as tooth extraction and implants to prevent bacteria from entering the bloodstream through the exposed capillaries. The treatment procedures may vary from patient to patient, so be sure that you have to consult your dentist and doctor concerning this problem.
How can heart conditions from dental infections be prevented?
Regular brushing of teeth, use of mouthwash, flossing, and preventive cleaning (prophylaxis) by your dentist can all help prevent heart infections from happening. Quitting or avoiding smoking and consuming sweets and acidic food will also be helpful.
If you’re looking for a local dentist to help you with your gum problems, and tooth infections, Dental House today for a free consultation!