Bacteremia: A Harmless Side Effect of Tooth Brushing, But Only in Healthy Individuals

Harmless Tooth BrushingBrushing your teeth is a crucial habit for maintaining the health of your teeth. Regular tooth brushing keeps plaque and cavities from building up on your teeth and keeps bacteria from causing inflammation inside the mouth.

However, tooth brushing may also have a more unusual side effect: the occurrence of bacteremia.

Bacteria in the Blood Stream

Bacteremia is the appearance of bacteria inside the blood stream. Brushing your teeth, especially with a hard bristle brush, creates microscopic tears inside the mouth, which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream. It may also happen during professional cleanings with an oral hygienist.

Dentists like will tell you that deep dental cleanings are crucial for keeping your teeth clean, just like brushing. Though bacteremia is a possible risk of these procedures, it is usually harmless, as the body’s immune system will typically make quick work of the invaders.

Indeed, for healthy people, bacteremia is a negligible risk, as small amounts of bacteria in the blood stream are okay.

Increased Risk in People with Poor Health

Bacteremia is not a normal occurrence. The blood stream is a virtually sterile environment, which means that on normal days, it is completely free of bacteria. The presence of bacteria may indeed be a cause for alarm, which will usually require the administration of blood tests to get the root cause of the problem.

While small amounts of bacteria may enter the blood through the mouth is well-tolerated by healthy people, it is a markedly different case for people with health problems.

People with cardiac problems, for example, are at increased risk of infective endocarditis due to tooth brush-induced bacteremia. Endocarditis is the inflammation of the inner linings of the heart, called the endocardium.

Fortunately, dentists can recommend antibiotics to minimize the risk of endocarditis in the event of oral bacteremia. The use of less invasive cleaning methods can also lessen its occurrence.