Saturday, November 6, 2010

Brush Your Teeth Because It Will Save Your Life! | Thursday, 11 September 2008 | Here's an additional reason to brush your teeth: Poor dental hygiene boosts the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a pair of studies report this week.

Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide, claiming upward of 17 million lives every year, according to the World Health Organization. Smoking, obesity and high cholesterol are the most common culprits, but the new research shows that neglected gums can be added to the list.

Flourishing germs

"We now recognise that bacterial infections are an independent risk factor for heart diseases," said Howard Jenkins of the University of Bristol in England.

"In other words, it doesn't matter how fit, slim or healthy you are, you're adding to your chances of getting heart disease by having bad teeth," said Jenkins who was speaking at a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology in Dublin, Ireland.

There are up to 700 different bacteria in the human mouth, and failing to scrub one's pearly whites helps those germs to flourish, he said. Most are benign, but some are essential to good health. But a few can trigger a biological cascade leading to diseases of the arteries linked to heart attacks and stroke, according to the new research.

"The mouth is probably the dirtiest place in the human body," Steve Kerrigan of Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons. "If you have an open blood vessel from bleeding gums, bacteria will gain entry to your bloodstream."

Bacterial shields

Once inside the blood, certain bacteria stick onto cells called platelets, causing them to clot inside the vessel and thus decreasing blood flow to the heart.

"We mimicked the pressure inside the blood vessels and in the heart, and demonstrated that bacteria use different mechanisms to cause platelets to clump together, allowing them to completely encase the bacteria," he said.

This not only created conditions that can provoke heart attacks and strokes, it also shielded the bacteria from both, immune system cells and antibiotics.

"These findings suggest why antibiotics do not always work in the treatment of infectious heart disease," Jenkins said. (Nino Guevara Ruwano)


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