The human body works like a single efficient machine made up of many specialized parts that are closely interconnected. If there is a problem in a single organ of the body, all other organs will be adversely affected over time. The oral cavity is a critical component of the body. It allows us to eat, thus providing nourishment to the whole body. Although it is now possible to provide parenteral nutrition, it has many complications and is not as effective as normal nutrition. There is also blood and nerve supply to the mouth. If there is a problem, the pain will disrupt the rest of the body. In case of infection, blood can act as a means of transmission to other parts of the body. Therefore, it is extremely important to take care of the oral cavity. This will not only give you a clean mouth and fresh breath, but also protect vital organs such as the heart and brain.
Recent research has revealed how dental problems affect the rest of the body. Dental cavities are now known to significantly increase the risk of fatal stroke secondary to bleeding in the brain. Strokes due to bleeding in the brain are medically referred to as hemorrhagic strokes. Compared to ischemic strokes (caused by occlusion of blood vessels in the brain), although rare, they are more difficult to treat and therefore more deadly. The most common bacteria involved is Streptococcus mutans, and there is now pressure for doctors to aggressively use antibiotics against it.
Gum infection or inflammation is known to increase the risk of stroke. The cytokines, chemicals released in the oral cavity by the body’s immune system are not limited here. They show their effects even far from the primary infection site. Studies have shown a relationship between damage to small blood vessels in the brain and gum disease. Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, has been shown to limit the body’s ability to control blood sugar. Poor sugar control or diabetes mellitus increases a person’s risk of developing hypertension or stroke.
Seek medical attention when you have a sore throat. While we dismiss most of them 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 throat. If they are not treated with antibiotics, they can trigger an immune reaction that manifests as a disease known as rheumatic fever. Then the heart is affected and this is called rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic heart disease damages the patient’s valves. The valves in the heart are vital as they prevent the backflow of blood so that enough blood gets to all parts of the body. Damaged valves can be replaced with prosthetic valves. However, both damaged and prosthetic valves are vulnerable to bacterial infections that lead to the development of infectious endocarditis. The severity of this disease can lead to heart failure, requiring a heart transplant. Bacterial vegetation can be dislodged and move towards the brain. They can then block an artery causing an ischemic stroke. Studies have shown that the most common source of related bacteria is in the oral cavity. This is especially true after invasive dental procedures.
To avoid the extremely dangerous effects of dental cavities on the brain and heart, we need to avoid cavities. The only viable preventive strategy for cavities is to practice proper dental hygiene and seek regular dental care. All medical professionals need to be sensitized about the link between oral bacteria and stroke to initiate interventions early. They will also be able to counsel patients, especially those at high risk of stroke, about intercourse and appropriate measures to be taken.
The far-reaching effects of dental cavities and gum disease should motivate you to take oral hygiene and health seriously. Visit your dentist regularly. Brush regularly and properly with the appropriate toothbrush. Flossing further improves your oral hygiene, and do so whenever possible. A healthy and clean mouth protects your heart and brain.