Friday, September 12, 2008

Dental Problems and Bleeding Gums Can Lead to Heart Disease

Scientists meeting in Ireland on September 11th (Society for General Microbiology's Autumn meeting) have been discussing how bad teeth, bleeding gums and poor dental hygiene can end up causing heart disease. This is a link that many of us may not be aware of.

If you don't care for your teeth properly, you will end up with bleeding gums, which provides an entry to the bloodstream for up to 700 different types of bacteria found in our mouths. This increases the risk of having a heart attack, according to microbiologists from the University of Bristol and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Dr Steve Kerrigan from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, is one of the authors of this work. He says, "The mouth is probably the dirtiest place in the human body," said . "If you have an open blood vessel from bleeding gums, bacteria will gain entry to your bloodstream. When bacteria get into the bloodstream they encounter tiny fragments called platelets that clot blood when you get a cut. By sticking to these platelets, bacteria cause them to clot inside the blood vessel, partially blocking it. This prevents the blood flow back to the heart and we run the risk of suffering a heart attack."

The only treatment for this type of disease is aggressive antibiotic therapy, but this is a short-lived solution, due to the increasing numbers of multiple drug resistant bacteria.

"Cardiovascular disease is currently the biggest killer in the western world. Oral bacteria such as Streptococcus gordonii and Streptococcus sanguinis are common infecting agents, and we now recognise that bacterial infections are an independent risk factor for heart diseases," said Professor Howard Jenkinson from the University of Bristol. "In other words it doesn't matter how fit, slim or healthy you are, you're adding to your chances of getting heart disease by having bad teeth."


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