London: Scientists have figured out why not cleaning your teeth can invite heart attacks.
Until now nobody had been able to determine exactly why not brushing regularly might bring on a heart attack. A dental scientist has now discovered that a common bug that causes tooth decay and gum disease can infiltrate into the bloodstream and help blood clots to form, reports the Telegraph.
Consequently, these clots can cause heart attacks and strokes, which together claim more than 200,000 deaths in UK every year.
Usually streptococcus bugs are restricted to the mouth, but when someone has bleeding gums they can seep into the blood.
There the bacteria use a protein on their surface, called PadA, to force blood platelets to bind together to give themselves a protective shield.
Howard Jenkinson, professor of oral microbiology of the Bristol University, said: "What we have done is whittled down to a single protein molecule on the surface of bacteria that can activate platelet formation."
Jenkinson presented the research Monday at the Society for General Microbiology’s autumn conference.
"It is the first time that a mechanism from a single bacterium has been shown to activate platelets and make them spread."
Describing the mechanism, he said: "When the platelets clump together they completely encase the bacteria. This provides a protective cover not only from the immune system, but also from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection.
"Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain."
The study provides evidence for yet one more reason to brush one`s teeth and - ideally - floss.