September 9, 2010

Brush Your Teeth and Prevent Heart Disease

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Not brushing your teeth at night may lead to more than just a few cavities.  Some researchers say poor oral hygiene could actually lead to heart disease.

They say without regular brushing and flossing, bacteria from plaque can escape into the bloodstream and wreck havoc.

"Poor dental hygiene can lead to bleeding gums, providing bacteria with an escape route into the bloodstream, where they can initiate blood clots leading to heart disease," Professor Howard Jenkinson, from the University of Bristol was quoted as saying.

University of Bristol researchers along with scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have shown that once let loose in the bloodstream, Streptococcus bacteria can use a protein on their surface as a weapon to force platelets in the blood to bind together and form clots.

"When the platelets clump together they completely encase the bacteria. This provides a protective cover not only from the immune system, but also from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection," he said. "Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves (endocarditis), or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain," explains professor Jenkinson.

This study reiterates a very important public health message: "People need to be aware that as well keeping a check on their diet, blood pressure, cholesterol and fitness levels, they also need to maintain good dental hygiene to minimize their risk of heart problems," Professor Jenkinson says.

SOURCE: Society for General Microbiology autumn meeting at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK, held September 6-9, 2010