Patient Testimonial Reminds Us of Dangers of Oral Bacteria

Dec 17, 2015, by Dr. Becky Coats

We want to call attention to a new testimonial by one of our long-time patients, Chris James. James became a patient at our office after having his aortic valve replaced. He was a regular patient for five years, then stopped coming for three, until he got a worrisome diagnosis that brought him back in for his regular checkups.

A Heart Infection Related to Oral Bacteria

James was checked into the hospital in May for heart problems. He had an abscess–a localized infection–on his aortic valve. There were two main potential sources for the bacteria that infected his heart: his mouth or his intestines.

On the recommendation of his doctor, he had a saliva test taken, which confirmed that his mouth could have been the source of the infection because of the presence of several bacteria known to infect the heart.

Now he’s back getting his regular dental checkups and recommends everyone do the same!

How Bacteria Gets from Your Mouth to Your Heart

It might seem like your mouth and your heart aren’t really connected, but the truth is that there’s an express route from your gums right into your heart, and bacteria commonly use it. This is known as bacteremia, the condition of having bacteria spreading through your blood. It’s different from septicemia, which is an actual infection of your blood, and is immediately life-threatening.

We used to think that bacteremia only occurred after major dental procedures or trauma, such as a blow to a tooth or an extraction, but new research shows that it happens all the time. Every time you brush your teeth, get a routine dental checkup, or experience bleeding gums, you stimulate the spread of bacteria from your gums into your blood. This brings oral bacteria to every part of your body: your liver, your kidneys, and even your heart.

Once oral bacteria are in your heart, they can cause many problems, such as infections. You might experience an abscess like James had or you could develop endocarditis, an infection of the heart. And if you have arterial plaque, the odds are good that the plaque actually contains oral bacteria. There is a direct link between gum disease and stroke risk.

Preventive Care Helps Your Health

Grapevine Dentistry Dr. Coats

Preventive dentistry isn’t just about protecting your teeth and gums, which would be enough in and of itself. Instead, it’s also about protecting your overall health, including your brain, heart, and kidneys.

If you want to protect your health with regular dental care in Grapevine, please call  today for an appointment with a dentist at Grapevine Dental Care.