Monday, October 23, 2006

Brushing your teeth to help your heart

When I was in medical school, it was taught that dental caries and dental extractions can send bacteria streaming down your bloodstream, and this can lodge in your heart valves (usually defective ones) to cause troublesome and life-threatening endocarditis. The relationship between the teeth and the heart then, appears to be valve endocarditis.

Then we began to see evidence evolving which seemed to support the theory that atherosclerosis is partly an inflammatory disease. There was some early evidence that the gums and teeth are frequent sources of chronic infection to the body and, in fact, could be a source of infection and inflammation, usually indolent ones. This relationship is growing stronger.

Soon we will have to have guidelines for dentist to help us prevent coronary heart disease. The recent issue of the Journalof Periodontology, carried a publication by a Danish group who studied 110 CAD patients with dental disease and 140 matched controls, who had dental disease and no CAD. In this populations of about 350 patients, CAD was six times more common in those with significant dental gum disease. This of course, lends credence to the inflammatory hypothesis of CAD. What is even more important is the fact the one more risk factor for CAD, which is seldom mentioned, is uncovered, and with a little effort, can be avioded, in our attempt to prevent CAD. This prevention can be primary, or secondary. Do we need to send all our CAD patients to the dentist, in our attempt to secondarily prevent CAD?

Should we have all secondary school students or tertiary university students, be given routine dental examination, in an attempt to primarily prevent CAD? Interesting. Certainly, I think this new evidence should be pursued and obviously, more research needs be done, even in Malaysia. Perhaps we can lead the world in helping to establish the role of dental disease in the development of CAD. So take care of your teeth, to help your heart.

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