In recent weeks, a great deal of media attention has been focused on this possible relationship. In fact, since the early 1990s, preliminary studies at other universities have used laboratory strains of mouth bacteria and population data to show this possible link.
Temple's study is the first to take a large number of dental plaque bacteria directly from the mouths of patients with severe periodontal disease and test their effect on blood platelets.
"Almost immediately after we exposed human blood platlets to the dental plaque bacteria, the platelets began to clump together," says Dr. Eugene J. Whitaker, associate professor of Dentistry and lead investigator. "And, out of all the periodontal bacteria we tested, Porphyromanas gingivalis was the only one to cause this clumping, which is a key step in formation of bloodstream thrombi (blockage)."
Porphyromanas gingivalis is the most important bacterial cause of destructive gum diseases in adults. The Temple research findings further support and expand a possible link between periodontal disease and development of athrosclerotic heart disease, a condition resulting from plaque build-up and constriction of coronary heart arteries, and strokes affecting the brain.
"The importance of our findings is that at least 36 million American adults have some form of destructive periodontal disease, which leads to loosening and loss of teeth," says Dr. Thomas E. Rams, a co-investigator and chairman of Temple's Department of Periodontology. "Porphyromanas gingivalis is very frequently in dental plaque causing this disease. These people may be at increased risk of getting heart disease and strokes if Porphyromanas gingivalis from their mouth gets into the bloodstream and clumps platelets similar to what we see in the laboratory."
The researchers will present their findings at the 27th annual meeting of The American Association for Dental Research, March 4 - 7 in Minneapolis.