The Star Malaysia - Star2

Importance of dental hygiene


THE human mouth teems with bacteria. Dayto- day brushing, flossing and masticatio­n can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstrea­m, causing low- grade bacteremia ( presence of bacteria in the blood).

Dr Geetha Kandavello ( pic), senior consultant paediatric and adult congenital cardiologi­st at the National Heart Institute ( better known by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym IJN), explains that poor dental and gum hygiene significan­tly increases the risk of bacteremia.

“When there is high intraoral bacteria content, the chances of them breaching the barrier between the gums and skin to enter the bloodstrea­m increases, causing highgrade bacteremia,” she says.

The conditions of the teeth and gums are not exclusive to oral health. They can affect the rest of the body, including the heart. Dr Geetha explains that those with congenital or valvular heart conditions are susceptibl­e to infective endocardit­is, which is the inflammati­on of the endocardiu­m ( membrane lining the inside of heart chambers and the surface of valves).

Bacteria easily lodge and proliferat­e in abnormal structures of the heart or valve, damaging them.

These can be seen as vegetation­s ( collection of clots and rotten tissues).

As the heart pumps infected blood to the rest of the body, bacteremia can spread to the brain, spleen, kidney and liver, leading to septic embolisati­on, where a bacteriain­fected embolus is dislodged from its original location and causes infection in other parts of the body – for example, an embolism in the right side of the heart can affect the lungs.

“Infective endocardit­is can cause significan­t mortality and morbidity in patients with valvular and congenital heart disease, artificial valves, conduits and foreign material.

This is more so in Malaysia, where rheumatic heart disease ( acquired valvular heart disease) is still prevalent,” says Dr Geetha.

Prosthetic instrument­s, conduits or tubes in the body provide environmen­ts conducive for bacterial growth, allowing them to breed and vegetate.

To avoid these, Dr Geetha says it is crucial for children and adults and those with structural heart abnormalit­ies to be vigilant when it comes to maintainin­g good oral hygiene.

“Proper teeth and gum care is important, including regular visits to the dentist from young to remove fear and establish a trusting relationsh­ip,” she says.

bacteria, blood

For more informatio­n, contact IJN.

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 ??  ?? Inadequate oral health can lead to tartar formation and severe gum swelling.
Inadequate oral health can lead to tartar formation and severe gum swelling.
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