Is oral hygiene key to a healthy heart?

DIKSHYA KARKI

KATHMANDU, April 14: Good oral health is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. But many people are negligent about it.
Woman Flossing TeethWoman Brushing Teeth
According to the oral health facts presented by World Health Organization (WHO), “The most common oral diseases are cavities and periodontal (gum) disease and 60 to 90% of schoolchildren worldwide have dental cavities.”

The word “oral” is not confined to teeth alone. Dentist Samskar Bikram Rana of People´s Dental College & Hospital, Naya Bazaar, says, “Oral health is more than the teeth. It includes the whole area of the mouth, which is the teeth, gums, jawbone and soft tissues.” He mentions that the common oral health problems among Nepalis are cavities and gum diseases.

Dental cavities are often described as tooth decay. They occur due to the germs found naturally in the teeth. These bacteria absorb sugar to form acids which destroy the teeth’s outer layer. In the latter stage of tooth decay, holes are formed in the teeth.

Among the various kinds of gum diseases, Dr Rana says, “The most common is gingivitis.”

It is the outcomes of plague built on the teeth resulting in red, swollen gums and bleeding. If not treated in time, it can advance to periodontitis and then to advanced periodontitis. In advanced periodontitis, the gums around the teeth are receded, leaving the teeth loose and in need of removal.

Studies have already shown that oral hygiene and a variety of diseases are related. Dr Rana agrees and mentions that patients with diabetes often have bleeding gums.

Among other diseases, there has been no substantial evidence on the direct relationship between poor oral hygiene and heart attacks. The American Academy of Periodontology however notes, “People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.”

The findings presented by the Academy also outline two major heart problems as an outcome of negligent oral habits – coronary artery disease, and swelling of the arteries.

In the first case, walls of the coronary arteries are thickened due to the buildup of fatty proteins. This happens when oral bacteria makes its way to the heart through the bloodstream and attaches itself to fatty plagues in the coronary arteries. Arteries are also swollen as a result of inflammation due to the plague buildup.

Slowly, blood clots are formed, restricting the heart from nutrients and oxygen to function properly. This could undoubtedly lead to heart attacks.

Dr Ravi Sharma, cardiologist at Sahid Gangalal National Heart Center, Bansbari, says, “There are many researches going on to establish the relationship between heart attacks and oral health. Nothing may have been proved in that field but oral health and rheumatic heart disease have a direct relationship.”

He explains, “Rheumatic heart disease occurs when the heart valves are damaged by strep infection in the throat. Being orally healthy can help avoid heart diseases.”

In agreement, Dr Rana says, “The symptoms of many diseases are seen from the mouth. Being orally healthy can help avoid a variety of diseases.”

He advises the use of toothpaste with the inclusion of fluoride, and says, “The teeth must be brushed at least twice daily. No matter what the brand, we must use toothpastes equipped with fluoride because it forms protective enamel against dental caries.”

He also recommends people to learn proper brushing techniques, reduce the intake of sugar, use a toothbrush with soft bristles, and change it every three months to remain orally healthy.

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