Gum disease is a chronic infection, and, if left untreated, it can lead to other chronic infections. One of the most serious infections that have been linked to gum disease is endocarditis, an infection of the inner layers of the heart, causing inflammation, damage to the heart valves, and even death.
But how do bacteria from the mouth get to the heart, lungs, and other parts of your body? Through your blood, and, unfortunately, bacteria can enter your bloodstream in response to many things you do every day, including brushing your teeth and even eating.
Bacteria living in your mouth are very close to your blood supply. Your gums are thin tissue, not as tough as your skin, and they are nourished by blood vessels that come very close to the surface. When the gums are injured, they can bleed, allowing bacteria access to your bloodstream, a condition called bacteremia, although bleeding is not necessary for bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
When bacteria enter your bloodstream, it can travel throughout your body and infect almost any organ in your body, including your heart. This is part of the reason why people were told not to have a tooth extracted or any other major dental procedure before heart surgery for fear that oral bacteria would spread to the heart.
However, it turns out that oral bacteria are entering your bloodstream all the time because of many things we do every day.
Bacteremia can be caused by virtually anything we do with our mouth, such as brushing teeth, flossing, and chewing. Although more people experience bacteremia after an extraction, people are exposed to more bacteremia as a result of everyday activities.
Both toothbrushing and an oral surgery procedure like a tooth extraction may cause bacteremia. However, in neither case does the bacteremia last significantly longer, with both bacteremia incidents lasting 15 minutes or less. If you consider that you brush your teeth in the morning and evening, then toothbrushing alone accounts for 15 hours of bacteremia a month, 60 times as much as from a single extraction. Even if we’re looking at a routine dental exam, it’s likely that toothbrushing accounts for 90 hours of bacteremia for every 15 minutes caused by a dental exam.
This is a reminder that having poor oral health can put you at risk for serious complications. If you think you have developed gum disease and would like treatment to help improve your oral health, please call (310) 275-5325 for an appointment with a Beverly Hills periodontist at Nicolas A. Ravon, DDS, MSD today.