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Could Oral Hygiene Prevent a Heart Attack?

Your pearly whites may make hearts skip a beat, but your oral hygiene makes sure you don’t get a heart disease.

Updated
Health News
3 min read
 Could Oral Hygiene Prevent a Heart Attack?

What do brushing and cleaning your teeth have to do with your heart? A lot, say health experts, suggesting that taking care of your teeth and gums will not only help keep oral hygiene or make your smile better but also save your heart from various diseases.

A gum problem can lead to a heart problem because the bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation.

Swelling caused by gum diseases may also trigger clot formation. Clots decrease blood flow to the heart, thereby causing an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Dr Subhash Chandra, Chairman (Cardiology), BLK Super Speciality Hospital

Dr Chandra recently treated Neelam, an 18-year-old girl who was diagnosed with endocarditis (suffering from a leaking heart valve). The infection in her heart valves was caused by mouth bacteria.

Endocarditis is an infection of the heart’s valves or inner lining. It occurs when germs get into the bloodstream and settle inside the heart, often on a valve.

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Risk Factors of Gum and Heart Diseases Are Same

The infection is usually caused by bacteria but in rare cases, it is seen to be caused by fungi.

Not brushing the teeth increases the bacterial count in the mouth which can travel to the damaged heart valves to cause infection.

 Could Oral Hygiene Prevent a Heart Attack?

Many of the risk factors for gum diseases are the same as those for heart diseases, such as tobacco, poor nutrition and diabetes.

Overall, people with chronic gum diseases have higher chances of a heart attack. People with moderate or advanced gum (periodontal) diseases are more likely to have heart diseases than those with healthy gums.

There are two sections – namely coronary heart diseases and infection in heart valves - in which the effect of poor oral health can be studied. Poor oral healthcare increases the risk of coronary heart diseases.

Bad Teeth Do Not Even Spare Your Stomach

Brushing your teeth twice a day is a mandate to maintain good oral healthcare. It is always advisable to go for a regular dental checkup in order to maintain a good oral health.

One of the biggest mouth-heart connections is related to gum diseases. The spread of infected bacteria by swollen and bleeding gums not only destroys the structure of the jawbones but can also cause a heart attack.
 Could Oral Hygiene Prevent a Heart Attack?

A gum disease like “gingivitis” is caused by plaque build-up along and below the gum line.

Apart from a heart attack, poor oral health hygiene may result in various serious health consequences like respiratory infections, diabetes, poor nutrition, osteoporosis and stomach disease like gastro-intestinal infection, H Pylori, gastritis and stomach cancer.
Dr Ramesh Garg, Head (Gastroenterology) at Saroj Super Speciality Hospital

So the next time you feel lazy brushing your teeth, listen to you heart!

(Vivek Singh Chauhan can be contacted at vivek.c@ians.in. This article was published in special arrangement with IANS. The article was first published on 21 January 2016. It has been reposted to mark World Health Day.)

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