01 Jul Bacteria Causing Endocarditis Can Originate In the Mouth
Endocarditis is a condition caused by the inflammation of the heart’s lining which covers the muscle and its valves. Although a rare occurrence, endocarditis can be life-threatening, causing difficulty in breathing or complete heart failure. The inflammation occurs when the heart lining is subjected to foreign bacteria that make their way to the heart via the circulatory system.
One of the most common ways that bacteria enters the bloodstream is through the mouth which is constantly exposed to foreign bacteria and provides a ripe environment for them to thrive. Poor oral health normally leads to plaque buildup which occurs when sticky bacteria adhere to each other as well as them retaining food particles. As bacteria multiply, they cause gingivitis which is the beginning stages of gum disease producing inflammation and bleeding of the gums. As gingivitis advances, it transforms into periodontitis which causes the gums to shrink and retract from the teeth allowing bacteria to enter further below the gum line to the underlying bone.
Both gingivitis and periodontitis can allow bacteria to enter the circulatory system through open wounds, cavities and bone deterioration. Once in the bloodstream, bacteria can approach the heart and attach to its lining where pockets of bacteria are created. Left untreated, these bacteria multiply and place an increasing burden on the heart and valves.
Antibiotics can be used before the performance of dental procedures to lessen the chances of bacteria reaching the heart and other areas of the body. However, there are a couple of problems with antibiotic use. First of all, some bacteria which enter the body through the blood are not easily detectable by the immune system and can avoid the affects of antibiotics. Secondly, the risks associated with using antibiotics during dental procedures oftentimes outweigh the benefits so they are not often used. Antibiotics during dental procedures are usually only applied if the patient is at a high risk of contracting serious complications associated with endocarditis.
It is a much better strategy to practice good oral hygiene in order to limit bacterial growth and the risks associated with bloodstream infiltration. Brushing and flossing daily as well as regular scheduled preventative visits to your dentist significantly reduce the risk of developing endocarditis and other health issues linked to poor oral health.
Want to see all the other health issues that can stem from not taking care of your teeth? Check out our interactive dental resource! It’ll change the way you think about oral health!
This article is part of our blog series, “The Deadly Consequences of Poor Dental Care“
Yuko Ohara-Nemoto, Kayo Kishi, Mamoru Satho, Shihoko Tajika, Minoru Sasaki, Akiko Namioka, Shigenobu Kimura. “Infective Endocarditis Caused by Granulicatella elegans Originating in the Oral Cavity.”J Clin Microbiol. 2005 March; 43(3): 1405–1407. doi: 10.1128/JCM.43.3.1405-1407.2005