In case you missed it, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Donald Clem, immediate past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. We discussed some recent confusion in the media regarding a statement from the American Heart Association. They had issued a statement that there was no specific causative agent found linking periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease , but that there is a strong correlation with the two.
Interestingly enough, a few weeks later, some researchers may have found a causative factor that causes inflammation of cardiovascular tissue and potentially lead to bacterial infective endocarditis.
Streptococcus gordonii is a bacteria found in the mouth. As it enters the blood stream via inflamed and bleeding gums, its produces a molecule on its surface that mimics fibrinogen, a blood clotting factor. This protein activates platelets to surround the bacteria and clump together. This can then grow on heart valves, or cause inflammation in blood vessels themselves.
U.S. News and World Report has a great summary of the findings, the subject of a presentation given at the Society for General Microbiology in Dublin. For the dentist, this again highlights the need to be having conversations with patients regarding the effect their oral health has on the rest of their body. This isn't just a flossing guilt trip anymore. It is becoming a matter of life and death.