Researchers have found another reason to keep us brushing and flossing our teeth: the same bacteria that causes dental plaque can enter the bloodstream and trigger blood clots that increase risk of heart disease.
Scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that bleeding gums provided streptococcus bacteria an escape route into the bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, the bacteria attract blood platelets that encase it, like a cocoon, making it harder for your immune system and antibiotics to detect. This platelet clumping can cause blood clots and inflammation of blood vessels that can slow blood delivery to the heart and brain.
“What our work clearly shows is how important it is to keep your mouth healthy through regular brushing and flossing, to keep these bacteria in check,” said study author Dr. Helen Petersen.
Further research is needed to determine the extent of this possible relationship between oral bacteria and heart health, but this study is more proof that scientists are only just beginning to understand the full array of problems that could arise from bad oral hygiene. It’s a sobering reminder that if we put our oral health at risk, we put our overall health at risk. Now, go protect your heart and brush your teeth!