Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heart Disease and Oral Bacteria

Good oral hygiene, such as brushing twice a day, flossing and visiting a dentist on a regular basis, could do more than help your teeth and gums stay healthy; it could also help in the prevention of endocarditis, infection of the heart and valve lining.

There may not be any one definitive study that proves that periodontal disease and heart disease are connected, but there are a few studies that show a strong relationship between the two diseases. Oral bacteria, including infection in the mouth or gums, is thought by many in the medical community to have an effect on heart disease and even diabetes. Studies have shown that those with poor dental hygiene are susceptible to more than 700 different types of bacteria that eventually make their way into the bloodstream. Once these bacteria are into the bloodstream they interact with blood cells that clump and can potentially cause blocked blood vessels.

Fortunately, there are studies being done to help determine the effect of oral bacteria and gum disease on heart disease. In particular, Steve Kerrigan of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and his colleges, including Dr. Howard F. Jenkinson of the University of Bristol, are studying how oral bacteria can possibly lead to heart disease.

These researchers are currently considering the relationship between cell surface proteins, bacteria and cell platelets. Their intention is to find new drugs that prevent bacteria from causing the platelets to clump. The current treatment is an assertive antibiotic regimen. Since antibiotics are quite controversial at the moment, it is their hope to find a non-antibiotic treatment to help prevent the interaction.

The researchers have reported some good leads and say they have a few targets that they are researching. Recently they have analyzed genes of streptococci and have found several proteins responsible for bacteria adhering to platelets.

While this research is still in progress and new treatments are not yet on the horizon, there is an easy simple solution to this issue: take the five or ten minutes a day that is needed to brush twice a day, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly and if any issues seem to be arising, such as bleeding gums or sensitive teeth. Keep oral bacteria low in your mouth, to keep oral bacteria out of your bloodstream.

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