Researchers have found a link between mouth bacteria and inflammation in the heart
Researchers have found that people suffering oral infections also often have cardiovascular problems.
And they have discovered a particularly strong link between periodontitis and strokes, especially among men and younger people.
A review of recent research supports a link between mouth bacteria and inflammation in the heart, both of which could be controlled by the cholesterol-busting drug atorvastatin.
A high dose of the commonly prescribed medication which boosts blood levels of anti-inflammatory fats called lipoxins and resolvins prevents both gum and heart disease in humans, and even reverses it.
The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, described the discovery as “exciting and promising” because lipoxins and resolvins also have the advantage of naturally controlling inflammation without suppressing the immune system.
Dr Thomas Van Dyke, of the Forsyth Institute in the United States, said: “Given the high prevalence of oral infections, any risk they contribute to future cardiovascular disease is important to public health.
“Unravelling the role of the oral microbiome and inflammation in cardiovascular disease will likely lead to new preventive and treatment approaches.”
The human mouth harbours one of the most diverse microbiomes in the body including viruses, fungi and bacteria.
The most common infections are cavities and gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis which are chronic inflammatory diseases that slowly and steadily destroy the supporting structures of teeth.
Significant epidemiological evidence supports an association between oral infections, particularly periodontitis, and stroke, especially among men and younger individuals. Inflammation plays a major role both in gum and cardiovascular disease.
However, over-the-counter non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can produce significant cardiovascular side effects, which means it is crucial alternative therapies are found.
Dr Van Dyke said: “New discoveries of natural pathways that resolve inflammation have offered many opportunities for revealing insights into disease pathogenesis and for developing new pharmacologic targets for the treatment of both oral infections and cardiovascular disease.”
How many times do you brush your teeth a day?
In future studies it will be important to compare the effectiveness of these inflammation reducing molecules, which we produce naturally, and other interventions that could potentially prevent or reverse gum and cardiovascular disease.
ALSO READ: My word: Ginger ale madness
He said another important question is whether there is a reverse relationship between the conditions, with cardiovascular disease influencing the presence or progression of gum disease, and to identify the underlying common genetic mechanisms.
In the meantime, Dr Van Dyke recommends people take better care of their teeth to potentially lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.
He added: “The majority of diseases and conditions of ageing, including obesity and type 2 diabetes, have a major inflammatory component that can be made worse by the presence of periodontitis.
“Periodontitis is not just a dental disease, and it should not be ignored, as it is a modifiable risk factor.”