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The Link Between Poor Dental Hygiene and Heart and Brain Diseases
Proper dental hygiene is not only essential for our teeth but also for the whole body. Bad bacteria from the mouth can easily enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation wherever it spreads. Therefore, bad teeth threaten with many health issues such as respiratory infections, erectile dysfunction, pregnancy complications, dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. Let’s figure out how poor dental hygiene affects heart and brain health.
Poor Dental Hygiene and Heart Problems
A new study found that tooth brushing three times a day can reduce the risk of heart failure by more than 10%. Researchers at Ewha Women's University in Seoul, South Korea, have studied whether improving oral hygiene can affect the risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
Scientists evaluated data from more than 160,000 participants aged 40 to 79 years, who at the beginning of the study didn’t have diagnosed atrial fibrillation or heart failure. All participants were observed on average for 10 and a half years.
Data was obtained from the Korea National Health Insurance System. In addition to information about diseases, this database contains characteristics such as height, weight, lifestyle, and habits, in particular, usual oral hygiene. During this time, 3% of participants developed atrial fibrillation and 5% suffered from heart failure. At the same time, regular tooth brushing correlated with a 10% decrease in the risk of developing atrial fibrillation and a 12% decrease in the risk of heart failure.
These results were obtained taking into account factors such as the age of the participants, gender, body mass index (BMI), socio-economic status, alcohol consumption, smoking, and physical activity.
This is not the first study showing the importance of oral hygiene for overall health. The authors explain that one of the theories underlying the findings of their study is that regular tooth brushing reduces the number of bacteria present in the mouth, which in turn reduces the risk of entry of bacteria into the bloodstream. Researchers recommend brushing teeth not only in the morning and before bedtime but also at least one more time during the day. It’s also important to change your toothbrush every two or three months.
Poor Dental Hygiene and Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists have long suspected that oral bacteria affects brain health and is linked to Alzheimer's disease.
When researchers compared brain samples of dead peers with and without Alzheimer's disease, it was obvious that the main bacteria associated with periodontitis, Porphyromonas (P. gingivalis), was found mainly in samples taken from patients with Alzheimer's disease.
However, it was still unclear exactly how P. gingivalis enters the brain. But now, experts from the University of Louisville conducted experiments on mice and saw the path of movement of the bacteria, showing that it really moves to the brain from the mouth. Researchers have also reported that P. gingivalis play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and aspiration pneumonia (a lung infection caused by inhalation of food or saliva).
P. gingivalis are transferred from the gums to the bloodstream with chewing or brushing, enter the brain and cause inflammation. Scientists have already found a way to deal with these harmful bacteria. The fact is that the main toxins of P. gingivalis are excellent drug targets. The advantage of this approach compared to antibiotics is that the intervention is aimed exclusively at pathogenic microorganisms and doesn’t affect good bacteria. The experimental drug COR388, which blocks the gingipain enzyme is currently in a phase ⅔ clinical study of the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the meantime, the best way to prevent P. gingivalis is to brush and floss your teeth regularly and visit a family dentist regularly. In addition, it is highly advisable to follow a healthy diet; according to some reports, it is even more useful than medical procedures.