flossing save your life?
(HealthScoutNews) -- Could
flossing save your life?
Researchers say a study
in mice is adding ammunition to the theory that gum disease can
threaten heart health by flooding the body with dangerous germs
that can cause arteries to clog.
"Our finding indicate
that one contributing factor to heart disease is oral infection
with a bacteria that causes gum disease," said study co-author
Caroline Attardo Genco, an associate professor of medicine at
Boston University School of Medicine.
But the findings conflict
with those published in a dental journal last year, and an epidemiologist
warned that there may not be a simple cause-and-effect relationship
between gum disease and heart disease.
For a decade, scientists
have studied a possible connection between gum disease and clogged
arteries. In gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, the
gums become infected by bacteria and can lead to the loss of teeth.
"Oral bacteria can
easily enter the bloodstream and eventually can make it to the
heart," Genco said. "Once the bacteria arrive, they
can activate an inflammatory response in the heart and ultimately
build up atherosclerotic plaque that leads to heart disease."
In her study, released
today at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents
and Chemotherapy in San Diego, a group of six-week-old male mice
were infected with bacteria that cause gum disease.
The mice were later killed,
examined, and compared to normal mice. Those that were infected
with the strongest strain of gum disease were more likely to develop
clogged arteries, which can lead to heart disease and heart attacks.
The findings suggest
that gum disease can contribute to heart disease, Genco said.
"They also stress the importance of good oral health to overall
She added that current
research into a possible vaccine against gum disease may help
reduce the rates of heart disease in people.
But a study of medical
records published in the Journal of the American Dental Association
in July 2001 found no evidence that eliminating gum disease would
lower a person's risk of heart disease. The study authors said
dentists shouldn't promote treatment of gum disease by saying
it would improve heart health.
Frank Myers, an epidemiologist
with Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said it would be difficult
to link gum disease to heart disease. A poor diet can cause gum
disease, but it may also contribute to heart disease on its own,
making it difficult to determine which was the cause, he added.
Also, he said, a chronic
infection can stress the body, raising a question of which factor
causes clogged arteries -- the infection or the stress.
What To Do
Learn more about gum
disease from the
American Dental Association.
American Academy of Periodontology suspects there is a link
between gum disease and heart problems.
Reference Source 101