Recent research has found yet another link between dental health and your overall health, specifically cardiac health. The study discovered that a common bacterial resident of the mouth that contributes to plaque buildup can cause significant health problems if it enters the blood stream.
These bacteria, Streptococcus gordonii, can pose as a human protein that signals blood clotting. Once they reach the bloodstream, they can activate platelets to form clots in the blood vessels. The clots successfully envelope the bacteria in a protective barrier, warding off any antibodies or antibiotics that could treat the infection. The clots can then create growths on the heart valves–called endocarditis–or inflammation of the blood vessels that can prevent blood flow to the heart or brain. If a clot prevents blood from reaching the heart, the result is a heart attack.
So, how can S. gordonii invade the bloodstream? If your gums bleed for any reason, they open up a route for S. gordonii to take a little trip. And once again, the common causes for bleeding gums are poor dental hygiene and gum disease.
The research team stressed that they will continue to see if there are any other dental bacteria that can behave similarly as S. gordonii. “We are also trying to determine how widespread this phenomenon is by studying other bacteria related to S. gordonii,” explained the lead researcher who presented the study at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference. “What our work clearly shows is how important it is to keep your mouth healthy through regular brushing and flossing, to keep these bacteria in check.”
Of course, we have been saying it all along, but it’s always extremely helpful and welcome to receive such emphatic support from the medical community outside of dentistry.