Who knew that good oral hygiene practices had so many more benefits than just keeping a healthy mouth? Research has shown a link between oral hygiene and cardiovascular diseases like infective endocarditis and strokes.
What is infective (bacterial) endocarditis? This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart or the heart valves. The American Heart Association explains that infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria from the bloodstream get lodged on damaged or abnormal heart valves.
One possible source of the bacteria is our mouths. Bacteria often live inside our mouths, and when we get a cut or have inflammation bacteria may have a direct passageway into our bloodstream.
To give some reassurance, this bacterial infection of the heart rarely affects individuals with normal heart conditions. Certain conditions can place some people at greater risk of this disease, especially those with
• Artificial heart valves
• History of endocarditis
• Damaged or scarred heart valves (possibly from Rheumatic fever)
• Various congenital heart defects
• Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
• Those with heart transplants who have experienced heart valve abnormalities
The American Heart Association emphasizes the low association of contracting infectious endocarditis due to bacteria from the mouth. They recommend daily preventative oral hygiene care for best protection. For those at extremely high risk (if you are questioning whether you or someone you know is at extremely high risk, talk to your healthcare provider) antibiotics prior to dental procedures may be recommended.
Strokes have also been linked to poor dental hygiene practices. Studies from the University of California at San Francisco have shown that individuals who have lost 10-19 teeth were at greater risk than those losing fewer teeth to experience a stroke due to plaques clogging the main arteries. Other research has linked the chronic inflammation resulting from gum disease to increasing inflammation of the blood, possibly helping to create blood clots that lead to strokes.
Ultimately, basic oral hygiene has a long list of healthy benefits.