Health gurus tell you that the way to avoid a heart attack is
- To eat right
- And avoid smoking and heavy drinking
Most of them would not include brushing your teeth in their list. But good oral hygiene may do more than protect you from becoming a toothless wonder, it might be the key to avoiding a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Plaque houses bacteria
Teeth quickly pick up a layer of bacteria. In fact, as soon as you stop eating, they begin the process of bunkering down in a biofilm (known as plaque) to begin the process of munching the left-overs.
Unfortunately, if their presence goes unchecked for any length of time, it results in eroded teeth and bleeding gums.
Bleeding gums allow for a bacterial jailbreak
Dribbling blood vessels afford bacteria an opportunity to get inside the body. Streptococcus bacteria, common residents of the oral microflora, happily exploit the open door and hop into the bloodstream. But being swept up in the rushing waters of the bloodstream is dangerous and challenging.
Swimming in the fast flowing currents would quickly become exhausting, plus their presence would be detected by the bodies security guards (immune system), who have a policy “shoot to kill”. Free floating bacteria would not last too long, so they hastily set about creating a life raft of sorts.
The platelet life raft
The bacteria produce a protein on their surface called PadA. PadA acts as a trigger for the body’s platelets to begin binding together.
The clumping of the platelets provides the bacteria with a floating bunker in which they can lock down inside. Encased in the “platelet vessel”, the bacteria are protected from the immune system, as well as antibiotics that might be used to treat an infection.
Safe and sound, they ride the blood pipes, but as the “platelet vessels” expand in size to accommodate the growing tribe of bacteria, they begin to impede the blood flow in blood vessels forming clots. When a clot wedges inside a coronary blood vessel, the resulting jam can precipitate a heart attack, an obstruction in the brain leads to stroke.
Healthy teeth = healthy hearts
So if you want a healthy heart, keep the number of bacteria clinging to your teeth as low as possible to avoid inflammation and gum disease.
Brush at least twice a day for healthy teeth and gums AND a healthy heart.“Jailbreak” bacteria can trigger heart disesase. Press release on Society of General Microbiology website.
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