Tooth decay can cause heart problems

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Nov 25 2010 08:51 AM | Updated as of Nov 26 2010 12:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Far as your pearly whites may be from your heart, dental experts say a small dental problem can go a long way. In fact, keeping your teeth healthy may just save your life.

Speaking on Mornings@ANC this week, Dr. Sonny Burias, President of the Philippine Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, said a bacteria present in the dental plaque which causes tooth decay can cause blood clot in the arteries, eventually posing a threat to the heart.

"This potentially fatal blood clot when released in the bloodstream induces heart attack. The formation of plaque on the gums leads to a chronic inflammation of the gums and causes inflammation of the blood vessels. That's why the accumulation of plaque in the arteries can induce heart diseases," Burias said.

He pointed out that most of the time, people with severe dental decay or gum problems have symptoms of a heart problem.

Dr. Ron Rosero, Associate Fellow of the Philippine Academy of Implant Dentistry, added that the accumulation of such clots in the blood vessel can cause heart problems.

"Normally if people are not that susceptible to heart disease, if they maintain a healthy lifestyle or they don't just take care of their teeth, there's lower chance of getting heart disease because of their teeth. But if they like to indulge in cholesterol-laden food and a lot of sugar, that's going to increase the chances for heart disease at any time."

Rosero added that people aged 40 and above need to take better care of their teeth. Not only do they have less saliva cleaning teeth, there's also a lot of time for plaque to form.

 The symptoms of tooth decay, said Burias, include toothache, sensitive teeth, and bad breath.

He added that they are caused by accumulation of plaque in the cavities of teeth, an excess of lactic acid in the mouth, improper brushing and flossing of teeth, and poor oral health.

Watch that sugar

To avoid potentially life-threatening dental problems, Rosero said it's important to watch the amount of sugar you consume because that's converted to lactic acid which is eventually stored in the cavity of the teeth.

"Go to the dentist for regular checkup and do restoration of cavity to prevent accumulation of lactic acid inside the cavity. Second, make sure the gums are healthy also through proper cleaning, proper oral care and regular dental cleaning," he said.

"It's best not to just brush, but brush properly for at least 5 to 10 minutes a day, then to floss and use a mouth rinse."

According to Rosero, many people just brush their teeth quickly, which is not enough to remove what's necessary.

"It's not how long you brush, not how hard you brush that matters. Get all the surfaces of the teeth, going from the top and then the sides."

He noted that upward and downward strokes push food debris out of the gums and help prevent tooth decay.

But he added that nothing compares to having regular dental visits once every 6 months, or twice a year, for cleaning and checkups.

So if you keep your teeth in perfect shape, your heart may very well be smiling.