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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Poor Oral Hygiene Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Dr. Vincent Wan


It has been said many times that heart disease is the biggest killer in western society.  With our poor diets rich in fatty foods and reluctance to exercise, no wonder our blood vessels become clogged.  There are of course other factors and poor oral hygiene has been highlighted as one of the important ones.

There is a well established association between poor oral hygiene and heart disease.  Research from the UK in 2008 found that people with bleeding gums due to poor oral hygiene had a higher risk of developing heart disease.  They found that poor oral hygiene caused bleeding gums.  The bleeding gum tissue allowed a pathway for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream.  They found that once the bacteria was in the bloodstream, they stuck to platelets.  Platelets help us clot when a blood vessel is cut and we bleed, but forming clots inside an intact blood vessel can interrupt the flow of blood for no good reason.  If the blood vessel involved brings blood to the heart then blood flow to the heart may be interrupted and a heart attack triggered.

So why doesn’t the immune cells in our bloodstream destroy the oral bacteria?  Research has shown that the reason the oral bacteria stick to platelets is to shield themselves from immune cells in the bloodstream.  The oral bacteria completely surround themselves with platelets allowing them to escape from detection by immune cells.  It is this platelet shield that also protects these oral bacteria from antibiotics.

Having good oral hygiene lowers the risk of heart disease.  Good oral hygiene minimises the number of oral bacteria available to enter the bloodstream.  Good oral hygiene also prevents getting bleeding gums and avoids giving the oral bacteria an entrance into the bloodstream.  It they don’t enter the bloodstream then there is no risk of them sticking to platelets and causing clotting and blocked blood vessels.