Feeds

Can flossing your teeth prevent a heart attack?

Care or coronary

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Also in this week's column:

Can flossing your teeth prevent a heart attack?

Asked by Ginger Whitlam of Adelaide, Australia

Ask your physician about this one, not a mere anthropologist.

Nevertheless, there is considerable research that bacteria in dental plaque can prompt blood to clot. And the lesions brought about by gum disease can provide a route for germs to enter the bloodstream. So this would lead to the conclusion that keeping your teeth plaque-free would help against heart attack, and you would do this better by flossing?

For several years a number of studies have suggested that people with mouth infections run a higher risk of heart disease. Dr A Bazile and colleagues from the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found precisely that in their research presented in the June, 2002 Journal of Periodontology.

"Treating gum disease cuts heart attack risk". This is according to researchers led by Dr Barbara Taylor, head of periodontics at the Sydney Dental Hospital in Australia writing in the January 2006 Journal of Dental Research.

The association of heart attack risk and gum disease was first suggested by research more than a decade ago by Dr Mark Herzberg, a professor of preventive sciences at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Herzberg mixed a common mouth bacteria, Streptococcus sanguis, with blood in test tubes and found that clots began to form. Taking a closer look at the germ, he discovered that it carries a protein similar to one in blood vessels that is known to be crucial to the clotting process.

Clots can be quite dangerous. In later experiments, Herzberg injected rabbits with the bacteria. Within minutes, the heart and breathing rates of the rabbits sped up. An electrocardiogram detected serious heart valve abnormalities - all signs of clots in arteries. This was no doubt rather worrying for Hertberg - let alone for the rabbits.

Applying findings about rabbits to humans is somewhat risky, of course. But do we really need yet another incentive to brush after meals, floss every day, and get regular dental checkups?

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.