Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Close-to-Home

Today I learned that while blood is normally sterile, you get bacteria in your bloodstream every time you brush your teeth.

This is not the sort of thing I want to be clued into.  The rational part of me knows that our immune systems are probably good enough to handle the onslaught of blood-borne bacteria twice a day, so nobody ever dies of “sepsis, c/w tooth-brushing.”*

But the rest of me still doesn’t like it.

But I do like this slide, which our course director included in her lecture to demonstrate one reason why microbiology is important:

* In the interest of not spreading misinformation, I looked it up to see if it’s more common than I thought.  It’s not, but you can definitely die of sepsis from having an untreated cavity.  (FANTASTIC, as Boyfriend hasn’t had dental insurance since high school, and I’m essentially in the same boat this year.  I now picture us both dying of sepsis by June.  Thanks, med school!)

10 thoughts on “Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Close-to-Home

  1. Ah, the fun of no dental insurance. When I told my dentist that we’d be losing our insurance and couldn’t afford $150 for a cleaning again in 6 months, she told me to go to the dental hygiene school. Students get graded on their work cleaning teeth (and have to fix anything the instructor says still needs attention), and it only cost $30 (long ago, so prices have probably gone up).

  2. That’s also more of a risk for people with faulty heart valves (bacterial endocarditis), so unless you or boyfriend had rheumatic fever, you should be okay 😛

      • Damaged heart valves are a good target for bacterial colonies to form and thus it causes bacterial endocarditis (which is why people with certain heart murmurs have to take antibiotics around the time they get dental cleanings). It is just secondary to bacteremia and not actually spesis.

        • Oh, that does make sense. Thanks! 🙂

          I believe we’re rheumatic fever-less and all of our valves should be in proper working condition, so I now feel more optimistic about our chances for living out the year.

          • Good. Just don’t go Monk on us and pour boiling water over your toothbrush in the morning if you can help it. I mean you’ve probably got access to an autoclave so there is no need. Just buy a case of toothbrushes and autoclave supplies and have a sterile one at hand. I dare you to go all out and scrub in, open glove and then brush your teeth. 🙂

  3. Also hitting close to home: you inoculate the surface of your body with enteric bacteria when you defecate.

    I tried to find a way to phrase that to sound better. But gave up when 1) I realized that there’s no way to make that sound better, and 2) you are in med school, so it is kind of moot 😛

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