Serious Heart Problem Linked to Bacteria in Dental Plaque

Over 600 types of bacteria thrive in your mouth, but one in particular, Streptococcus mutans, is responsible for tooth decay. S. mutans live in plaque, the sticky, smelly substance that attaches to teeth and can harden into tartar. They produce an acid that erodes tooth enamel. But S. mutans does more than cause cavities.

A recent study at the…

Over 600 types of bacteria thrive in your mouth, but one in particular, Streptococcus mutans, is responsible for tooth decay. S. mutans live in plaque, the sticky, smelly substance that attaches to teeth and can harden into tartar. They produce an acid that erodes tooth enamel. But S. mutans does more than cause cavities.

A recent study at the University of Rochester Medical Center tells us that S. mutans can enter the bloodstream, usually during a dental procedure or after strong-handed flossing. Most of the time, our immune system immediately eliminates the bacteria. However, sometimes S. mutans make their way to the heart in a matter of seconds. That’s when the real trouble can begin.

S. mutans colonize in the heart, often in the heart valves, and cause inflammation — a condition called endocartitis, which can be lethal. In fact, research shows, endocartitis is most often caused by invasion of S. mutans.

Further research shows that a protein known as CNM gives S.mutans the ability to attack the heart. Preliminary studies reveal that, without CNM, S. mutans can’t get a foothold in heart tissue. The more CNM a person has, the more likely he or she could suffer endocartitis from an invasion of S. mutans.

Experts hope that a simple saliva test can be developed to evaluate a patient’s risk for endocartitis caused by S. mutans. Currently, heart patients receive some antibiotics before a dental procedure. One possible preventive treatment for patients who test positive for increased risk of endocartitis might involve a greater dose of antibiotics.

For you and your loved ones, eliminating plaque with twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing, accompanied by six-month checkups and dental cleanings, will reduce the risk of cavities, gum disease, and associated overall health risks. Dr. Erpenbach is a member of the American Association for Oral Systemic Health and he is studying the Bale-Doneen Method, a medical philosophy for preventing diabetes, stroke, and heart attack.

To schedule a consultation or checkup with Dr. Erpenbach, call his Knoxville dental office at 865-329-7815. The practice is conveniently located on Kingston Pike and serves Rothwood, Lakemore Hills, Amherst, and surrounding communities.

Source: Science Daily