Heart disease and oral health: role of oral bacteria in heart plaque
BOSTON, MA — The billions of bacteria and other microscopic critters that live in the mouth unquestionably influence the health of teeth and gums. But do they also cause problems for the heart and blood vessels? And can improving oral health prevent cardiovascular problems?
The notion that problems in the mouth cause diseases elsewhere in the body makes sense but has been difficult to prove, explains the Harvard Heart Letter. Scientists are exploring several mechanisms that may connect the two processes. In people with periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), chewing and toothbrushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to heart attack.