Could oral hygiene be the key to a healthy heart?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and one of the largest economic burdens with copious prevention methods such as medication, weight management, healthy dietary and fitness habits used to combat its onset. However, recent research proposes a simpler and a more cost efficient method to preventing CVD – a toothbrush.
Good oral hygiene is a significant factor in relation to overall health. Thus it is no surprise that a high correlation exists between periodontal diseases (gum disease) and the onset of serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Individuals suffering from periodontal diseases exacerbate existing heart conditions and are two times more likely to experience CVD than those with a healthy mouth. In both processes inflammation is a common factor with the treatment of periodontal diseases resulting in a reduction in overall inflammation within the body. Therefore the necessity of obtaining dental clearance and treating oral infections prior to undergoing heart surgery is evident and cannot be overemphasised.
Periodontal diseases are infections that damage the gums and bone supporting the teeth. This causes an inflammatory response which releases bacteria through the gums and into the bloodstream which experts believe causes a build-up of cholesterol-rich plaque on the artery walls. This theory is thought to increase the risk of atherosclerotic vascular disease due to a growth in cellular mediators – primarily C-reactive protein (CRP) which is the liver’s reaction to inflammation and results in inflamed arteries and blood clots.
A number of dental treatments have the potential to release bacteria into the blood stream which can then cause an infection within the heart tissues or valves. In addition to increased expenses and the need for further intervention treatments patients suffering from periodontal disease run a higher risk of developing potentially life threatening complications. Oral treatment and removal of decayed teeth before heart surgery could mean the difference between life and death. It is evident that maintaining a healthy mouth will decrease the risk of periodontal disease and in turn CDV. Therefore it is imperative that dental clearance be obtained prior to heart surgery to significantly reduce the risk of morbidity, mortality and cost.
Conquering periodontal diseases:
The most common cause of periodontal diseases is a build-up of bacterial plaque on the surface of the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. Below are a number of prevention methods:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily for two minutes and floss afterwards. This helps remove bacteria from food and plaque.
- Use a good toothbrush with soft nylon bristles. This will remove food and plaque from teeth without damaging gums or wearing away tooth enamel. Natural brushes with bristles from animal hair should be avoided as they can harbor bacteria.
- Brush your tongue to remove additional bacteria build-up.
- Gargle with plaque reducing mouthwash to fight oral bacteria build-up.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or as soon as bristles start to wear out. Worn out bristles can harbor bacteria which will be transported to your mouth.
- Schedule regular dental assessments. Dentists are trained to detect and treat periodontal disease.
- Patient with heart complications are advised to see their doctor before dental treatment and take special precaution such as consuming antibiotics before and after.
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