Opinion: Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Dr Vimal Arora
The heart of the matter: dental hygiene and cardiac health
Saturday, September 29, 2018

A recent study published in The Lancet states that the prevalence of heart diseases and strokes in India has risen over 50% between 1990 and 2016. The research draws attention to an alarming number of deaths caused by heart disease alone. 

It is common knowledge that high blood pressure, tobacco consumption and diabetes are the usual triggers for heart trouble. However, a silent killer has emerged in the light of this recent research. An innocuous aspect of health – poor oral care –seems to be connected to cardiovascular health. 
Periodontitis or the ‘inflammation of the gums’ affects the area around the tooth, including the bone and the gum. For patients with periodontal disease, whose gums are inflamed and bleed easily, bristles from even the softest toothbrush can tear tiny blood vessels in the compromised gum tissues, leaving the door wide open for bacteria to enter. On an average, the human mouth harbors about 5,00-1,000 different types of bacteria which perform a variety of functions. While some kinds of oral bacteria prevent diseases, other bacteria turn into the cause for serious illnesses. These bacteria may in turn harm blood vessels or cause clots in the blood vessels by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in the artery walls. 

Periodontitis causing bacteria have been discovered in atherosclerotic plaque in clogged arteries in some instances. In a few cases, it was observed that inflammation in the mouth caused during periodontitis could expedite and heighten inflammation in the arteries leading to heart attack and stroke. A lot remains to be known about the correlation between periodontitis and cardiac health, and, the means and methods to reduce or remove it completely. 

Be that as it may, the advances in dental health assure us that it is possible to prevent and fight the problem with common sense and thorough attention to dental care. Daily brushing and flossing of teeth will help in protecting the gums in the years to come. Along with that, regular visits to a dentist for oral exams and cleanings will also keep your oral cavity in proper shape. 

Keep your mouth happy, and your heart will thank you for the favour!

(The writer is chief clinical officer, Clove Dental Clinic. Views expressed are personal)

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