Here’s yet another reason to make flossing a priority: New research has found dental plaque bacteria that make their way into the bloodstream can cause blood clots and trigger a life-threatening heart infection.
Scientists who presented the findings at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin said more researcher is needed to develop new drugs to combat the problem.
The oral bacteria – known as streptococcus gordonii – occur naturally and contribute to plaque that forms on the surface of teeth. But if they enter into the bloodstream, through a cut in the mouth or bleeding gums, they can cause significant health problems, according to a team of researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the University of Bristol.
When the bacteria cross into blood vessels, they prompt platelets to clump inside blood vessels, forming clots, and lead to infectious growths on the heart valves (a condition known as endocarditis). The resulting inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart or brain.
"In the development of infective endocarditis, a crucial step is the bacteria sticking to the heart valve and then activating platelets to form a clot,” said Dr. Helen Petersen, a team researcher. “We are now looking at the mechanism behind this sequence of events in the hope that we can develop new drugs which are needed to prevent blood clots and also infective endocarditis."
She added: “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."