Oral Bacteria and Heart Disease

Oral health is a top priority for many Americans today. Oral bacteria is linked to heart disease and researchers have discovered more about this link recently. In the June issue of Infection and Immunity, a report published by microbiologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center demonstrated the means in which bacteria known as Streptococcus mutans is used to spread to the heart, causing a sometimes deadly infection called endocarditis. It is a protein that has been surmised to be responsible transporting Streptococcus mutans to the heart. Endocarditis is characterized by inflammation of heart valves, typically due to Streptococcus mutans infection.

The Streptococcus mutans bacterium has long been known to cause cavities.  It is this bacterium, found in dental plaque, which produces the acid that penetrates tooth enamel and creates tooth decay.  In many cases, the bacterium enters the bloodstream where it is typically abolished by the immune system. In other cases, the immune system does not destroy the bacterium and it colonizes in the heart’s tissue and valves causing endocarditis.  The results of this study offers hope for the development of a screening process that may one day be developed to identify people at risk of developing endocarditis.

For now, we know that the best way to reduce the risk of endocarditis is through proper oral hygiene. This includes brushing for two minutes in a small circular motion and along the gum line twice a day, flossing once a day, using a mouthwash at bedtime, as well as, limiting and using a straw for soft drinks. People prone to excessive plaque build-up may require additional professional dental cleanings throughout the year. People with gingivitis or gum disease may require root planing and scaling, as well as, bio film treatments available at Dr. Mark Sweeney’s office. Bio film treatment is focused on maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the oral cavity to prevent the progression of gum disease.  There are more advanced therapies available   for moderate to late stage gum disease.

If you are interested in dentistry, contact Dr. Mark Sweeney, an Austin Texas cosmetic dentist, for a consultation at 512-380-1300.