Poor oral hygiene spells risk of heart disease

People with a poor oral hygiene routine are at an increased risk of heart disease, according to recent research.

The study – funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and presented at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’s (RCSI) annual Research Day last week – stated that bleeding gums allowing oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream the bacteria stick to platelets (blood clotting cells) and clump together within blood vessels.

This can prevent the blood flow back to the heart and heightens the risk of heart attack.

‘The mouth is probably the dirtiest place in the human body, with over 500 different species of bacteria,’ said lead researcher Dr Steve Kerrigan from the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Molecular Cellular Therapeutics at RCSI.

‘We have recently identified two receptors (proteins) on oral bacteria that we believe play a major role in recognising and sticking to platelets.

‘The results of the study suggest that we have identified some of the mechanisms oral bacteria use to inappropriately clot or clump platelets in the blood vessels.’

Dr Kerrigan added that brushing and flossing regularly will reduce this risk factor for heart disease.

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