Brush your teeth daily 'to stave off heart disease'
Brushing teeth regularly is not only good for your pearly whites, it also staves off heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers from Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University of Bristol in Britain claim that bacteria from the mouth that escape into bloodstream can cause clots and trigger life-threatening endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart.
Streptococcus gordonii is a normal inhabitant of the mouth and contributes to plaque that forms on the surface of teeth. The bacteria -- reaching blood stream through bleeding gums -- can wreak havoc by masquerading as human proteins that cause the blood to clot, which can trigger a heart attack.
In fact, this increases the risk of a heart attack regardless of how fit and healthy people are, say researchers.
In their study, the researchers found that S gordonii is able to produce a molecule on its surface that mimics the human protein fibrinogen -- a blood-clotter. This activates platelets -- blood cells that aid clotting -- causing them to clump in blood vessels, the 'Daily Express' reported.
These unwanted clots encase the bacteria, protecting them from the immune system and from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection. Platelet clumping can lead to growths on the heart valves that can block the blood supply to the heart or brain, says the study.
Dr Helen Petersen, who led the study, said: "We are now looking at the mechanism behind this sequence of events in the hope that we can develop new drugs that are needed to prevent blood clots and also infective endocarditis."
The latter is treated with surgery or by strong antibiotics -- which is becoming more difficult with growing antibiotic resistance.
Dr Petersen added: "About 30 per cent of people with infective endocarditis die and most will require surgery for replacement of the infected heart valve with a metal or animal valve."