Heart Disease And Your Gum Health May Be Linked, So Don't Miss That Date With Your Dentist

BERLIN - OCTOBER 12: A dentist and her assistant prepare to clean a patient's teeth in this photo illustration at a dentist's office on October 12, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. German political parties currently involved in federal government coalition negotiations, including the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the business-oriented German Free Democrats (FDP), are currently haggling over a restructuring of Germanys' Health Fund, or Gesundheitsfonds, the fund that provides the basis for Germany's state health care system. The CSU is pushing for more flexibilty in how the system is funded in order to allow for freer competition between the 180 different health insurance companies within the state health care system. The health care negotiations are part of broader negotiations between the CDU/CSU and the FDP in the creation of a new coalition government following nationwide elections in Germany last September. (Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Before you skip that next dentist appointment, or decide to hit the sack without brushing your pearly whites, have a think about this — gum disease has been linked to heart disease. At least, that's what researchers found by orally injecting mice with four types of bacteria that cause gum disease, which raised inflammation and cholesterol in each mouse. While these results are preliminary and only found in mice, the study researchers hope this will prompt the American Heart Association to recognize the link, and lead to a difference in the way doctors diagnose and treat heart disease patients.

Over six months, University of Florida researchers studied how four types of bacteria — Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema deticola, Fusobacterium necleatum, and Tannerella forsythia — spread from each mouse's mouth to the heart and aorta, the body's largest artery, as well as the lung, liver and kidney. The bacteria increased inflammation and cholesterol in each mouse, which are also heart disease risk factors.

University of Florida researcher Kesavalu Lakshmyya told the Huffington Post:

In Western medicine, there is a disconnect between oral health and general health in the rest of the body; dentistry is a separate field of study from medicine. The mouth is the gateway to the body, and our data provides one more piece of a growing body of research that points to direct connections between oral health and systemic health.

While the American Heart Association claims these findings are not conclusive of a link between the two known diseases, the AHA notes the two diseases share some of the same risk factors.

This research was presented during an American Society for Microbiology session, and the study results have not been published yet. However, it's just one aspect of a larger research project being conducted at the University of Florida, which is investigating how gum disease affects the rest of the body. 

Study researcher Alexandra Lucas, a Cardiologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine, hopes the findings from this study will raise awareness among doctors treating heart disease, and lead to additional research between heart problems and oral health issues.

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