Poor Dental Health Linked to Atherosclerosis

Previous research has shown that poor dental health and periodontitis have been linked to atherosclerosis, which is a condition where fatty material collects along artery walls. This causes the arteries to become narrower and can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, angina (chest pain), and stroke.

Researchers in Sweden recently tested the hypotheses that bacteria from the mouth and/or the gut could end up in the atherosclerotic plaque and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found the number of bacteria in the plaque correlated with the number of white blood cells. This meant that this was a cause of inflammation.

The researchers used sequencing methods to determine the composition of the bacteria in the mouth, gut and arterial plaque of 15 patients in both a control and a study group.

They observed that bacteria were found in the atherosclerotic plaques and mostly in  the mouth, but also in the gut, of the same patient. They observed that the bacteria Pseudomonas luteola and Chlamydia pneumoniae were present in all atherosclerotic plaques.

These results indicate that bacteria enters the body from the mouth and gut and ends up as atherosclerotic plaque which can contribute to inflammation and even rupture of the plaque.

In another study, the researchers found that some of the bacteria in the mouth and gut did in fact correlate with certain biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease.

Even so as noted by the researchers and myself, correlation does not prove causation and additional studies are needed.

“Finding the same bacteria in atherosclerotic plaque as in the mouth and gut of the same individual paves the way for new diagnosis and treatment strategies that work on the body’s bacteria,” says Bäckhed. “However, our findings must be backed up by larger studies, and a direct causal relationship established between the bacteria identified and atherosclerosis.”

Source:  Koren, A.,  and et. al.. Microbes and Health Sackler Colloquium: Human oral, gut, and plaque microbiota in patients with atherosclerosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010.

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