In the figurative sense ask this question to yourself. For the literal understanding of it, we are here to help you out!
With millions of bacteria AND a very rich supply of blood, the condition of your mouth can modulate the wellbeing of your heart.
Why are there so many bacteria in the mouth?
The mouth has millions of bacteria housed in it. It is almost impossible and also undesirable to remove all of them.
In a clean, healthy mouth, the majority is of the “Good Bacteria”. These bacteria are beneficial and help in multiple functions including
Initial breakdown of the food
Prevention of excessive growth of the bad bacteria in the mouth
It is this balance between the “Good Bacteria” and the “Bad Bacteria” that determines the health of the mouth.
Good oral health practices help in decreasing the overall bacterial count in the mouth with the “Good bacteria” in higher numbers.
Unhealthy mouth is like a gateway to diseases all over the body. The “Bad Bacteria” are not only bad for the mouth, but also for the rest of the body.
Being very obvious that the mouth is an integral part of the body, an UNHEALTHY MOUTH LEADS TO AN UNHEALTHY BODY
How can an unhealthy mouth affect the body?
To understand how can the mouth affects the body, one needs to first understand what and how things go wrong in the mouth.
The major relation is between gum diseases and infectious diseases of the heart, that finally can result in heart failure. The other condition that is very closely related to gum diseases is diabetes.
It all starts with the “bad bacteria” growing around the gums. This bacterial build-up causes the gums to swell up and become red. This swelling and infection causes the body’s immunity to become activated that then attacks the gums, the surrounding tissue and the supporting bone.
Long standing gum diseases that cause the body’s immune response to be activated are a major reason for the complications in diabetes and pregnancy.
How does gum disease affect the heart?
The “Bad bacteria” form large colonies around the gums and on the teeth. They can get dislodged by simple acts like brushing or chewing gum. This dislodged colony containing of thousands of bacteria can enter the blood stream from any small cut or wound in the mouth.
Once the bacteria enter the bloodstream they have a special affinity for the heart muscles, and while passing through the circulation, they go and stick in the heart and divide and start forming colonies there.
These kind of colonies generally form on the valves of the heart between the chambers. The valves are an ideal place for these colonies to divide as they have a lesser blood supply than the rest of the heart.
Do you have a greater risk of this kind of an infection?
Certain groups of people are more prone to have such kind of infections than the general population. These groups of people include
People who have defects in their heart valves since birth
People who have damaged heart tissue due to a heart attack or any other reason
Young middle- school going
People with severe gum disease
People who have had a recent episode of strep throat
How can an infection finally lead to heart failure?
Heart valves a leaf-like structures that divide the chambers of the heart. In normal conditions they are very elastic and open and close as per the direction and pressure of blood flow.
When these bacteria colonize on the valves they cause the body’s immune response to be activated. The immune cells attack these bacteria and also damage the valves making it stiff. These stiff valves then do not operate properly in the opening and closing action, thus there is a backflow of the blood when the pressure in the chamber increases.
This backflow results in lesser blood flowing in the circulation to the rest of the body finally resulting in heart failure.
What are the symptoms?
Before the symptoms, there are some Preventive steps that can avoid this condition
Always present with an honest and complete history to the dentist/ doctor. A previous cardiac problem or any heart condition at birth needs to be reported.
If you have a recent episode of strep throat that extended beyond the regular course let the doctor know.
The symptoms might not be very alarming at first and generally are ignored till the more irreversible damage begins.
The initial condition when the bacteria start colonizing on the heart valves there would be
Redness and swelling in the joints of the knees and the elbows. This swelling is generally very painful and is fleeting.
At this stage the treatment is pretty simple and just requires a proper course of antibiotics and painkillers to reduce the pain and swelling.
As the disease progresses the symptoms are more of the nature that showcase damage to the heart and heart failure.
“Prevention is better than cure” could not be put in a place more aptly than here. A seemingly inconsequential redness of the gums or bleeding from brushing can actually lead to heart disease.
It is time to stop ignoring dental conditions till they don’t cause pain or difficulty in chewing, and take oral health more seriously.
Oral health is an integral part of general health and shouldn’t be ignored until symptomatic. Get a reliable investigation of your mouth done regularly.