Good oral hygiene may do more than protect you from becoming a toothless wonder, it might be the key to avoiding a heart attack by precluding killer clots
From Plaque to Platelets: How Your Oral Health Can Impact Your Heart Health
Health gurus tell you that the recipe for a happy healthy heart is
- To eat right. Their definition of right, usually involves replacing saturated fat with so called heart healthy polyunsaturated fats and eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
- To exercise.
- To avoid smoking and heavy drinking.
- To minimizing salt intake
Most of them would not include brushing your teeth on their list of heart health habits, but it should be.
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) or other heart calamity.
A growing body of evidence shows mouth health impacts overall health.
Oral cavity a bacterial hangout
Your mouth is a warm, cosey, moist place with lots of nice things to eat, so bacteria are always popping in…..
The vast majority are immediately washed away, but some manage to settle in.
In fact the oral cavity harbours the second largest and most diverse microbiota after the gastrointestinal tract, with approx. 770 opportunistic, commensal and pathogenic bacterial species, calling the mouth home.
The house bacteria build
The mouth is a tumultuous place with litres of saliva being produced daily, to take up residence, bacteria need to hunker down on the tooth surface.
They do this by constructing a biofilm.
When it’s soft and squishy we call it plaque, when it hardens it’s called tartar.
Tucked under the biofilm they are part of a thriving community and enjoy munching on our dinner.
Hanging in the neighbourhood
Now exactly who takes ups residence depends on what you feed them and the environmental conditions in the mouth.
Unfortunately BAD BODY CHEMISTRY frequently results in BAD mouth chemistry.
Or maybe it’s the other way round. BAD mouth chemistry begets BAD BODY CHEMISTRY !
The point is when your mouth becomes a BAD NEIGHBOURHOOD for an extended period of time, teeth are eroded and gums bleed. It’s the bleeding gums that pose the health risk, because it allows oral bacterial residents to enter directly into the circulation.
And inside the body…………. they can get up to mischief, if they KNOW HOW.
And some do………
Problem species include bacteria that belong to the Streptococcus and Staphylococcus family, as well as Porphyromonas gingivalis. This bad boy has been associated with Alzheimer’s Diseases
Bleeding gums allow for a bacterial jailbreak
Now any oral resident can fall down the hole, but for the most part, it’s NOT a problem. Being dumped into a gushing river of blood is NO walk in the park for the average bacteria.
The experience is dangerous and challenging.
Swimming in the fast flowing currents quickly become exhausting, plus their presence is detected by the bodies security guards (immune system), who shoot to kill.
The trouble is…………….a single bacteria is pretty small. Hitting A SMALL moving target is challenging, so it’s not an area of defense that the traditional players are always skilled at.
They need help finding the target and this is where platelets come in.
For years platelets have been seen as the cells responsible for closing leaks, but they’re increasing being seen as an integral part of the immune system. They trap bacteria in their sticky web stopping them from migrating, while at the same time they expand the size of the target.
Platelet’s defend the body through immunothrombosis.
Of course TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING, can be a BAD THING. Which brings us to today’s story……….
Some bacteria have figured out ways TO GAME the system.
One common mouth resident that can go rogue is Streptococcus goniddi. This species of 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.
The platelet life raft
Encased in the “platelet vessel”, the bacteria are protected from the big guns of 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.
Life raft to hearse
Should the one of those clots be BIG ENOUGH to wedge in “wrong” place…
It can occlude a vital blood vessel cutting off oxygen supplies.
The other place these floating platelet “castles” sometimes lodge is behind one of the valves inside the heart, precipitating a potentially fatal condition known as endocarditis.
So if you want a healthy heart, strive to keep the number of bacteria taking up permanent residence in your mouth, as low as possible to avoid inflammation and gum disease.
The most obvious way to do this, is to brush your teeth & floss REGULARLY.
But there are other strategies to consider.
- You want to watch what you eat, a diet high in free sugars tends to feed the trouble makers
- Avoid saliva shortages.
The saliva defense
Saliva flushes bacteria out the mouth…………..
If the amount of saliva you are producing is diminished, this gives bacteria the break they need to HUNKER DOWN.
Saliva shortages can arise as a result of prescription medications and often go hand in hand with insulin resistance, watch this video from the “Ups and Downs of Insulin Resistance series” for ideas to address this issue. And if you need more personalized help, I offer one-on-one health conversations. Click here to learn more.
Is There a Causal Link Between Periodontitis and Cardiovascular Disease? A Concise Review of Recent Findings. International Dental Journal (2022) 72:37-51. Maria Febbraio, Christopher Bryant Roy, Liran Levin
Staphylococcus aureus, master manipulator of the human hemostatic system. J Thromb Haemost (2018) 16: 441–54. L Liesenborghs , P Verhamme, T Vanassche.
The Era of Thromboinflammation: Platelets Are Dynamic Sensors and Effector Cells During Infectious Diseases. Front Immunol. *2019) 10: 2204. Li Guo and Matthew T. Rondina.
Remote ischemic preconditioning, uses a blood pressure cuff, to deliberately cut off the blood supply – it’s cruel, but in the end, practice makes perfect.
The time of the day, you want to stop platelet MOBBING is FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. To do this, you should be taking aspirin with dinner, NOT breakfast.
Your blood pressure is UP. Your instinct says, this CAN be fixed, with a little sun, sea and surf. You’re half right. All you need is the sun, to distress