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The relationship between
oral health

and life expectancy


Levels of Bacteria in Plaque May Increase Risk for Heart Attacks

<>Researchers Warn: Don’t Let Your Mouth Pollute Your Clean Heart

Researchers have found evidence
that the amount of bacteria in subgingival plaques, the deep
plaques in periodontal pockets
and around the teeth, may con-
tribute to an individual’s risk
of a heart attack, according to
two studies appearing in the
Journal of Periodontology. These studies further researchers' understanding that periodontal bacteria may increase the risk
for heart disease.

In one study researchers looked
at 150 individuals with perio-
dontal diseases and found that
the total number of periodontal bacteria in subgingival plaques
was higher in individuals that
have suffered from an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). The second study found
that the same DNA from different kinds of periodontal bacteria
in plaque was also in the
patients’ heart arteries.

Researchers believe that these findings may help substantiate
what they have long known; if
there is a sterile pathway, such
as a bloodstream, near a periodontally infected area that
the bacteria from this infected
area cause inflammation in the
gums that opens up pores in the surrounding blood vessels, which enables the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body and cause great harm.

“It is like setting up a garbage dump on the edge
of a river. You wouldn’t
be surprised if the lake downstream ended up pol-
luted with the garbage
from the dump,”
Vincent J Iacono, DMD and presi-
dent of the American Academy of Periodontology. “A patient’s bloodstream acts very much like
the river in this analogy, in that it carries the bacteria from the periodontal plaques, possibly ‘polluting’ the arteries of the heart with periodontal bacteria, causing inflammation of the ar-
teries which may lead to a heart attack. This potential effect of periodontal bacteria further supports the need for periodic
deep cleanings to enhance overall health and wellbeing.”

These studies represent two in a large body of research that investigates the possible link
between periodontal diseases and other systemic conditions such as heart disease. “Intervention
data is not available to prove a causal relationship between the
two. Right now we are currently
advising patients that maintain-
ing good periodontal health can
only help not hurt,” said Iacono.

From the American Academy of Periodontology

Many people may not understand how oral health may affect life expectancy. So the first step would be to recognise the mouth as a major gateway into the human body. It is the upper part of the digestive system and has a structure that prepares food for the first phase of digestion.

The mouth contains the tongue, teeth, hard and soft palate, and gum, salivary glands and the mucosa. And a dentist is specially trained to give professional care to all the parts of the mouth.

The body has various inter-connected systems of organs. This means that if there is a problem with one part of the body, it may affect other parts. A disease of any part of the mouth may be associated with some other organs in other parts of the body.

A person with gum infection may suffer from general body malaise and loss of appetite. A person with tooth ache may also suffer from severe headache and earache.

It is important to note at this point, that oral health is different from dental health. Oral health refers to the entire parts of the mouth while dental health refers only to the teeth. Several diseases affecting the general health of the body have been linked to the health of the parts of the mouth.

Vitamins are vital elements needed by all tissues of the human body for optimum health. Vitamins include A,B,C,D,E and K, deficiency of any of these may affect oral health. Deficiency of vitamin C may cause tear of the angle of the mouth, deficiency of vitamins A and B may cause the tongue to become glossy with a burning sensation. Recurrent mouth ulcer may also be due to vitamin C and B complex deficiency.

Sometimes, diseases that result in death start from the mouth and can be detected by the dentist. Mouth ulcer is one of the early manifestations of HIV/AIDS, cancer or diabetes mellitus. When a person suffers from mouth ulcers that may or may not be painful and after treatment is no better, it may be a sign of an underlying deadly disease.

A decayed tooth, if left untreated for a long time, may become infected, which may extend to the root of the tooth and then into the bone. This is called tooth-bone abscess and can be lethal if it involves the space in the lower jaw and throat and if not properly managed.

Gum disease is a condition where the gum and associated tissues are gradually being destroyed. The medical term for it is periodontitis and it requires urgent attention.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the mouth is part of our general body health and people with poor oral health may suffer from poor general body health as well. If the mouth is properly cared for, there is an increased chance to live a good long life.

Excerpt from The Tide Online
September 20, 2005

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