Inside our mouth are billions of bacteria that are recycling our foods and drinks. These bacteria grow by feeding on sugar in the foods and drinks we consume. They then leave behind their waste in the form of dental plaque which causes cavities (tooth decay), gingivitis and other gum diseases. Tooth decay is spreadable just like other infectious diseases.
When it comes to regularly brushing teeth, some children refuse to make it an everyday habit. Sadly, this scenario is the reason behind various oral infections in which a recent study claims it as a contributing factor to heart diseases later on in life.
Oral Hygiene and Cardiovascular Health
According to research, there is a significant relationship between childhood oral infections and adulthood atherosclerosis, a disease wherein fats, cholesterol, and other substances build up in and on the artery walls (plaque), thus restricting proper blood flow. The plaque can burst, triggering a blood clot.
A cohort study was conducted by researchers from the University of Helsinki. It involves 755 participants from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. During its initiation in 1980, participants underwent a baseline evaluation and oral examination at ages 6, 9, or 12. They were then instructed to answer questionnaires regarding their oral hygiene habits and then their number of teeth, as well as, present and previous dental infections and periodontal diseases were recorded by the researchers.
At the end of 2007, participants aged 33, 36, and 39 were analyzed and their carotid artery intima-media thickness was analyzed using ultrasound. Here are the results:
- Fifty-four percent of the participants had slight periodontal pocketing, which are spaces around the teeth that have become infected.
- Experts found that 68, 87, and 82 percent of the children had bleeding gums, tooth decay, and fillings.
- Only 5% of the participants were found to have healthy mouths. Meanwhile, 5.6 percent had only one sign, 17.4 percent had two signs, 38.3 percent had three signs, and 34.1 percent had a total of four signs of oral infections.
Markus Juoala, a professor who was not related to the study says:
“The number of signs associated significantly with the cumulative exposure to the cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood, but especially in childhood.”
At the end of the study, researchers concluded that childhood oral infections were directly associated with atherosclerosis later in life.
Aside from oral health, there are some other risk factors that can increase our risk of atherosclerosis. These include the following:
Diabetes – this is a disease characterized by high levels of blood sugar because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or does not use its insulin properly.
Smoking – this habit doesn’t allow enough oxygen to reach the body tissues, damages and tighten blood vessel, raise blood pressure, and raise cholesterol levels.
Lack of physical activity – lack of activity can worsen other risk factors for atherosclerosis.
Overweight or obesity – overweight is having extra body weight from muscle, bone, fat, and/or water – obesity is having a high amount of extra body fat.
Unhealthy diet — The state of our heart can worsen because of our consumption of too many unhealthy foods that contain sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and saturated and trans fat.
Tips For Good Oral Hygiene
- Brush and clean between the teeth every day
- Use a soft-bristled brush that fits the mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily.
- Floss once a day to remove plaque from between the teeth, where the toothbrush can’t reach. This is essential to prevent gum disease.
- Replace toothbrush regularly
- Eat a tooth-friendly diet