University at Buffalo scientists have found that the risk of heart attack increases with an increase in bacteria in the mouth.
The researchers have revealed that they observed this trend while studying the relationship between periodontal disease and the development of heart disease. While a number of studies have suggested a connection between organisms that cause periodontal disease and the development of heart disease, very few have tested this theory.
The university researchers say that their study showed that two oral pathogens in the mouth were associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack, but that the total number of germs, regardless of type, was more important to heart health.
"The message here is that even though some specific periodontal pathogens have been found to be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, the total bacterial pathogenic burden is more important than the type of bacteria," said Dr. Oelisoa M. Andriankaja, who conducted the study in UB's Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dental Medicine as a postdoctoral researcher.
"In other words, the total number of 'bugs' is more important than one single organism," added Andriankaja, who is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Puerto Rico's School of Dental Medicine.
The study involved 386 men and women between the ages of 35 and 69 who had suffered a heart attack, and 840 people free of heart trouble who served as controls.
The researchers collected samples of dental plaque, where germs adhere, from 12 sites in the gums of all participants, and analyzed them for the presence of the six common types of periodontal bacteria, as well as the total number of bacteria.
The analysis showed that the patients harbored more of each type of bacteria than the controls.
However, only two species, known as Tannerella Forsynthesis and Preventella Intermedia, had a statistically significant association with an increased risk of heart attack.
The team said that their findings showed that an increase in the number of different periodontal bacteria also increased the likelihood of having a heart attack.
Andriankaja noted that further studies were required to better assess this potential association.
The results of the study will be presented during a poster session at the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) General Session being held in Miami, Fla., from April 1-4.