How mouth bacteria can trigger heart attack and stroke
Millions of bacteria live in your mouth and you already know that they can affect the health of your teeth and gums. But did you know that some of the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease could also affect the health of your heart and stroke? In fact, periodontal disease may be an underlying and potentially treatable cause of about 50% of heart attacks[i].
There are about 350 different species of bacteria that can live in your mouth. And out of these, scientists have identified five species as being strongly linked with heart disease. Mouth bacteria produce plaque, a sticky substance that they shelter under. If it isn’t removed, the result can be periodontal disease.
Your gums are spongy and vascular which means they’re full of blood vessels. If you have periodontal disease, chewing and even brushing your teeth can dislodge bacteria, which can then enter the bloodstream via the gums and can travel anywhere in your body triggering inflammation. Studies have shown that the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease have been detected in the atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries in the heart and in other parts of the body (this kind of plaque is different to the plaque in your mouth).
The five species of bacteria
These five types of bacteria appear to contribute to heart and blood vessel conditions such as heart attack and stroke, cause damage in three different ways according to a recent paper published by the Seattle Study Club in the USA. By affecting and raising the concentration of fat in the blood, by sticking to platelets (molecules in the blood that clump together to cause clotting), and by interrupting blood flow to the heart and brain.
Surrounded in armour
By clumping platelets together, bacteria surround themselves in a kind of armour, which shields the bacteria from attack by your body’s immune cells making them more difficult to detect and destroy by medicines such as antibiotics.
So what can you do to protect your health?
Paying careful attention to your oral health and your gum health in particular, may help protect you against heart disease. Daily gentle but careful brushing twice daily and flossing to remove plaque is vital. And your dentist can remove hardened plaque or tartar (which you can’t remove yourself) to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Come in to see us at Dental Loving Care – good for your oral health and your body health, too!