The human body works as a single efficient machine composed of many highly specialized parts that are closely linked. If there is a problem in a single organ of the body, with time, all the other organs will be negatively impacted. The oral cavity is a critical component of the body. It allows us to eat thus providing nutrition to the entire body. Though it is now possible to provide parenteral nutrition, it has many complications and it is not as effective as normal feeding. In addition, there is blood and nerve supply to the mouth. If there is an issue, the pain will disrupt the rest of the body. In case of infections, blood can act as medium of transmission to other parts of the body. It is therefore extremely important that you take care of the oral cavity. This will not only give you a clean mouth and fresh breath but it will also protect vital organs such as the heart and brain.
Recent research has revealed how much dental issues affect the rest of the body. Dental cavities are now known to significantly increase the risk of a fatal stroke secondary to bleeding in the brain. Strokes due to bleeding in the brain are medically referred to us hemorrhagic strokes. Though they are rare compared to ischemic strokes (caused by blockage of blood vessels in the brain) they are more difficult to treat and thus more fatal. The commonest bacteria involved is Streptococcus mutans and now there is a push for doctors to aggressively use antibiotics against it.
Gum infection or inflammation is known to increase the risk of suffering a stroke. The cytokines, chemicals released by the body’s immune system in the oral cavity are not confined there. They exert their effects even away from the primary site of infection. Research has demonstrated a correlation between damage of small blood vessels in the brain and gum disease. Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, has been shown to limit the body’s ability to control blood sugar. Poor sugar control or diabetes mellitus increases an individual’s risk of developing hypertension or stroke.
Whenever you get a sore throat seek medical advice. Whereas we trivialize most and opt for home remedies, sore throats can be the source of a bacterial infection that will irreparably damage your heart. Group A Streptococcus bacteria are known to cause sore throats. If not treated with antibiotics, they may trigger an immune reaction that presents as a disease known as rheumatic fever. Subsequently the heart is affected and this is called rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic heart disease damages a patient’s valves. Valves in the heart are vital as they prevent the backflow of blood thus every part of the body receives enough blood. The damaged valves can be replaced by prosthetic valves. However, both damaged and prosthetic valves are vulnerable to bacterial infections leading to development of infective endocarditis. The severity of this disease can lead to heart failure necessitating the need for a heart transplant. The bacteria vegetation that form can dislodge and move towards the brain. They can then block an artery causing an ischemic stroke. Research has shown the commonest origin of the bacteria involved is in the oral cavity. This is the case especially after invasive dental procedures.
To avoid the highly dangerous effects of dental cavities on the brain and heart, we need to avoid dental cavities. The only viable preventive strategy for cavities is to practice proper dental hygiene and to regularly seek dental care. All medical professionals need to be sensitized on the link between oral bacteria and stroke, so that interventions are instituted early. Also, they will be able to counsel patients, especially those at high risk of suffering a stroke, on the relationship and the appropriate precautions to take.
The far-reaching effects of dental cavities and gum diseases should motivate you to take seriously oral hygiene and health. Visit your dentist regularly. Brush regularly and correctly using the appropriate toothbrush. Flossing further enhances your oral hygiene and whenever possible do it. A healthy and clean mouth protects your heart and brain.