A Close Call that could have been prevented
A few years back, I spoke with a man who was going in for open heart surgery. What made this strange was that the man I was talking to ate properly, exercised regularly, and would at the surface not appear to have any reason to have heart problems. Yet, for about 6 months the man had seen an increase in chest pains. It started as what he perceived to be heartburn and built in intensity until he had to go see a cardiologist. He stated that there was bacteria buildup around one of the main cavities and that they would have to go in and remove the buildup of the bacteria. The accumulation was so severe that the doctors were amazed that he had not had a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Shocked by this in a man who was so “fit”, I could not help but ask how he ended up getting bacteria on the heart. He replied, “the doctor said that it all started with a cavity that I had.” I could not believe it, how could a tooth have anything to do with the heart?
How can a tooth affect your heart?
If you look at a diagram of your mouth you will see that there is a direct line between the blood flow from the mouth to the heart. Specifically, the left common carotid artery and the retromandibular vein that run directly from the heart up the neck and branch off to the lower jaw. When considering that the roots of the teeth have direct contact with the nerves, gums, blood, etc., any bacterium that accumulates in that area is very prone to travel throughout the body, especially if the person already has a weakened immune system or blood related issues.
In the story above, the person had a cavity, and instead of having the cavity fixed he prolonged any dental visits. When the pain became unbearable, the person finally went to see the dentist, by this point the tooth had to be pulled. Once the tooth had been pulled, it showed that the cavity had eaten through the top of the tooth and into the root. Bacteria from food, which get lodged down in the hole of the cavity, had accumulated the bacterium (molded) and that mold/bacteria had seeped into the bloodstream. The result ended up with open-heart surgery, which thankfully went without any additional complications.
The moral of this story is that preventative dental care is more than just keeping up with your oral health, it ensures the health and well being of your entire body. Had this gentleman gone to the dentist regularly he may have never ended up needing open-heart surgery. Author Dr. Jonathan McNeil
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