Heart attack risk from poor dental hygiene

Researchers have found evidence that the amount of bacteria in subgingival plaques may contribute to an individual's risk of a heart attack.

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By  Stuart Qualtrough Published  May 22, 2005

Researchers have found evidence that the amount of bacteria in subgingival plaques, the deep plaques in periodontal pockets and around the teeth, may contribute to an individual's risk of a heart attack, according to two studies released last month. In one study researchers looked at 150 individuals with periodontal diseases and found that the total number of periodontal bacteria in subgingival plaques was higher in individuals that have suffered from an acute myocardial infarction. The second study found that the same DNA from different kinds of periodontal bacteria in plaque was also in the patients' heart arteries. Researchers believe that these findings may help substantiate what they have long known; if there is a sterile pathway, such as a bloodstream, near a periodontally infected area that the bacteria from this infected area cause inflammation in the gums that opens up pores in the surrounding blood vessels, which enables the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body and cause great harm. "It is like setting up a garbage dump on the edge of a river. You wouldn't be surprised if the lake downstream ended up polluted with the garbage from the dump," said Vincent J. Iacono, DMD and president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "A patient's bloodstream acts very much like the river in this analogy, in that it carries the bacteria from the periodontal plaques, possibly 'polluting' the arteries of the heart with periodontal bacteria, causing inflammation of the arteries which may lead to a heart attack.”

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