Back in 2012, we told you how your oral health could impact the health of your heart. The truth is, since the late 90s there has been growing evidence that periodontal disease (an advanced form of gum inflammation) may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
However, the mainstream has been slow to buy into this and link gum disease and heart disease directly. But new research, which has found the first causal link between gum diseases and heart problems, may just change that.
Brushing and flossing your heart healthy
Gum disease is a condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected and it is estimated to affect more than half of all adults in Britain to some degree. Although previous studies have shown links between gum disease and heart disease, researchers believed that this was simply a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle and a high sugar diet.
In the latest study, researchers infected mice with four specific bacteria – Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, Tannerella forsythia, Fusobacterium nucleatum – that cause gum disease. They then tracked these bacteria as they entered the blood stream and spread to the heart and aorta, the largest artery in the body. The researchers found that the presence of bacteria in those sites caused the mice to have increased levels of cholesterol and inflammation, two of the main risk factors for heart disease.
Irina Velsko, a graduate student at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine who presented the findings of the new study at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, said that their results clearly showed how oral bacteria entering the bloodstream can increase risk factors associated with atherosclerotic heart disease.
Researcher and cardiologist, Alexandra Lucas, said: “Our intent is to increase physician awareness of links between oral bacterial infection and heart disease. Understanding the importance of treating gum disease in patients with heart disease will lead to future studies and recommendations for careful attention to oral health in order to protect patients against heart disease.”
The problem is that in mainstream Western medicine there is a disconnect between oral health and general health. That’s because Dentistry is a separate field of study from Medicine. Another member of the research team, Doctor Kesavalu, said: “The mouth is the gateway to the body and our data provides one more piece of a growing body of research that points to direct connections between oral health and systemic health.”
The research is part of a larger study on the effects of gum disease on overall health being conducted in the laboratory of Kesavalu Lakshmyya in the University of Florida’s Department of Periodontology. The researchers hope that their findings could help produce new ways to diagnose and treat heart disease, bridging the gap between Dentistry and Medicine.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that mainstream medicine doesn’t start treating gum disease with statin drugs… You know how these things go: anything that is linked to heart disease immediately gets treated with statin drugs. When in this case, all they need to do is get out the toothbrushes and dental floss.
In the meantime, while we’re waiting for Dentistry and Medicine to finally sing from the same hymn sheet – the mind boggles as to why the two ever separated… but hey, that’s the mainstream for you – it’s back to thoroughly brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day.
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Failing to brush your teeth could increase risk of heart attack, published 19.05.17, telegraph.co.uk