The dental industry has been aware of the correlation between periodontal disease and a range of overall health issues for years, but there is new, more significant evidence to support the correlation between oral bacteria and heart disease.
A recent study found association between the virulence genes of several bacterial species that cause periodontal disease to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). Virulence genes are what make bacteria effective — in part by allowing bacteria to attach to healthy cells.
For the study, researchers took plaque samples from 65 patients with heart disease from plaque buildup in the arteries and from periodontal pockets, and concluded that the results “strongly correlate periodontal bacterial co-occurrence and periodontal bacterial adhesion factor to atherosclerosis.” This means that the presence of oral bacteria, and the bacteria’s ability to attach to cells, coincides with a higher risk ratio of atherosclerosis.
Previous research studied only the presence of oral bacteria in heart disease patients, but advancements in technology allowed researchers to study the virulence genes of several bacteria species to draw a stronger correlation.
This new evidence does not prove that the oral bacteria is causal, but it does raise more concern for the implications of gum disease — and highlights the importance of monitoring and improving oral health.