According to Hindu belief the fate of a person is written on his head and this is the basis of the fatalistic disposition of many people in India. The science of Astrology defines the horoscope of a person based on time, date and the geography of the place of birth detailing the planetary positions. Similarly the Palmistry is supposed to tell about the past, present and future of human beings based on a reading of the lines on the palm and millions of people have faith in this subjective science. Who can resist the temptation of showing his or her hand in front of any one with a rudimentary knowledge of Palmistry in great anticipation of things to come in future? A totally different concept which emerged recently is claimed to predict the fate of one's heart through diagnostic science.
It is known that oral cavity is home to millions of bacteria which can cause harm to the body if not controlled properly. Over 700 species have been reported to be present in the mouth out of which 92 species belong to bacterial kingdom. In any given individual there could be about 100 different species of microbes. Even amongst the bacteria, man does not know anything about 29 species that exist in the mouth as many of them are difficult to grow outside the mouth. A simple toothpick when used to clean up the teeth can hold 10-100 million bacterial cells. Streptococci, Lactobacilli, Staphylococci, Corynebacterium and bacteriodes predominate the population. The multi billion rupees oral hygiene industry banks on the perpetual need for human beings to clean up their teeth and gums in the mouth through orthodontically designed brushes, a variety of cleaning aids like pastes, gels and powders and mouth wash preparations.
Gums are supposed to be the gate way for pathogenic microbes into organs like heart, liver and others and if these organs are to be protected the gum health has to be maintained without giving any scope for infections. Periodonditis, as manifested by erosion of tissues and bones that support the teeth, is a major disease condition in many people and regular chewing and brushing of teeth can release millions of bacteria into the blood stream. Streptococcus salivus, S.sanguis, Porphyromona gingivalis, Treponema denticola and T.forsythia are the major pathogenic bacteria that cause periodontitis in humans.
Recently it has been found that the extent of microbial load in the mouth can affect the condition of the heart which implies that by monitoring the status of these microbes in terms of their number can give an insight into the condition of the heart. Relationship between periodentitis and acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) is suspected for long based on many studies, though it is yet to be confirmed. Amount of bacteria is two times higher in ACS patients for the above mix of bacteria compared to that in healthy persons. Similarly alveolar bone loss was significantly higher in patients with ACS. The inflammatory response due to the presence these bacteria elevates the white blood cell counts and high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels, linked to heart disease. Oral bacteria, after entering the blood stream can also attach itself to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries and contribute to clot formation. Debris of oral bacteria detected in atherosclerotic plaques lends credence to this theory though none has been isolated so far under laboratory conditions. It is possible that the inflammation caused by periodontitis disease increases plaque build up and swelling of arteries, both with potential for heart attack. Oral bacteria gaining entry into blood can generate toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or blood stream and can cause clotting in and/or harm the blood vessels.
Can the above information be a basis for evolving diagnostic tools that can predict the condition of the heart during regular check ups? So far no empirical relationship has been established quantitatively but there is scope to collect viable data on quantity of bacteria in the mouth and symptoms of changing heart conditions as manifested by chest pain and ECG profile and evolve a reliable yardstick to predict health of the heart. This will enable the vulnerable population to adopt more aggressive approach to oral hygiene through brushing, flossing and mouth wash regimes and protect their hearts. Even the possibility of a right mix of foods in the daily diet that may prevent too much build up of undesirable bacterial load in the oral cavity cannot be ruled out. Traditional chewing of arecanut and or betel leaves or taking saumpf after a meal or consuming yogurt as the last course during a meal, could also have influence on the profile of microbial load in the mouth which needs elucidation through multidisciplinary studies by food scientists, microbiologists and health professionals like physicians and cardiologists.