Health & Living
For the sake of your heart, clean your teeth
Posted Thursday, February 14 2013 at 00:00
Perhaps, you have heard that conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, and having a family history of early heart disease exposes one to the risk of having a heart attack.
While certain risk factors cannot be changed, it is important to realise that you do have control over many others regardless of your age, background, or health status. Protecting your heart can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, taking healthy vegetable soup, maintaining a healthy weight and regularly but properly brushing your teeth.
Recent research from Boston University School of Dental Medicine, suggests oral disease and coronary heart disease are linked.
Researchers led by Dr Sok-Ja Janket evaluated 256 cardiac patients and 250 non-cardiac patients with similar demographic characteristics for five common oral diseases (pericoronitis, gingivitis, missing teeth, root remnants and dental caries) to create the asymptotic dental score for determining cardiac risk.
Among the five oral diseases, it was found that the strongest predictor of coronary disease was pericoronitis, followed by root remnants, gingivitis, dental caries and missing teeth.
Dr Tom Mutyabule, a dental surgeon at Pan Dental Surgery Ltd, says, numerous studies done about the link between oral and heart health reveal an unexpected connection of the two indicating that gum disease is associated with heart disease and chronic periodontitis, is a condition which is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease.
“Periodontitis is inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth. This is a result of poor oral health which usually starts with not brushing your teeth hence increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke,” explains Dr Mutyabule.
He continues that mouth health is a reflection of one’s general health as an adult. And so losing teeth can result in risk of heart attack.
“Normally, a full set of teeth is 32 and people with less than 21 teeth have a 69 per cent increase in the risk of heart attacks. Poor dental health not only gives one a bad breath but also leads to inflammation of the mouth,” he says.
Dr Mutyabule quickly, adds that regular brushing and flossing after breakfast, lunch and dinner is highly recommended if one is to avoid a heart attack resulting from poor oral health.
At the same time, regular cleaning at the dentist decreases the risk of heart diseases in adults by about 25 per cent.
One in seven
Studies show gum disease is affects one in seven adults aged 35 to 44 years and one in four adults aged 65 years and above.
Dr Drake Kizito of Medcare hospital, Mukono, explains that more than 700 different types of bacteria live in the mouth. He says poor dental hygiene allows these bacteria to flourish, and bleeding gums gives them direct access to the bloodstream.
“There are certain types of bacteria which stick onto platelets causing them (platelet) to form a thicket and therefore cover the bacteria, thus creating small blood clots which find their way into the blood stream,” says Dr Kizito.
The formation of these small blood clots increases a person’s risk of having a stroke or a heart attack as it enables the bacteria to evade detection by the immune system and protects them from antibiotics,says Dr Kizito.