Increase in Oral Bacteria Leads to Higher Risk of Heart Problems

April 6, 2009

New research has found a greater prevalence of oral bacteria increases the risk of heart attacks.

New research has found a greater prevalence of oral bacteria increases the risk of heart attacks.

Although the participants who had a higher amount of bacteria in their mouths were, in general, more likely to suffer heart attacks than those people who did not have increased levels of bacteria, two types—Tannerella Forsynthesis and Preventella Intermedia—showed a "statistically significant" relationship to the increased chance of a heart attack.

Over 1,200 people took part in the study—386 men and women between 35 and 69 who had suffered a heart attack, and 840 others who never had a heart attack. Researchers took samples of dental plaque from 12 sites on the gums of all participants, which were then analyzed for the six most common types periodontal bacteria and total amounts of bacteria.

Participants who had suffered from heart problems showed a greater number of oral bacteria than the control group. The researchers also learned that an increase in the amount of different bacteria led to a greater risk of having a heart attack.

Oelisoa M. Andriankaja, DDS, PhD, conducted the study in UB's Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dental Medicine, as a postdoctoral researcher, and is now an adjunct professor at University of Puerto Rico's School of Dental Medicine.

"The message here," said Andriankaja, "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. In other words, the total number of 'bugs' is more important than one single organism.”

Results of the study were presented at the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) General Session.