ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Winter Is Tough on Feet
Bone Loss Stable on Restricted Calorie Diet
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
CANCER
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
CAREGIVING
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
DIET, NUTRITION
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Eat Light - Live Longer
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Vitamin D Deficit May Trigger MS Risk Gene
Restaurant Sushi May Have More Mercury Than Store-Bought Fare
Heavy Traffic Can Be Heartbreaking
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Seniors Who Exercise Help Their Health
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day? Who Knew!
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
Parents Influence Sex Decisions, Hispanic Teens Say
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
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An Oral Approach to Heart Disease

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Irish researchers are trying to develop a new way of attacking heart disease -- through the mouth.

"We are trying to understand the mechanisms by which oral bacteria colonies can lead to cardiovascular disease," said Steve Kerrigan of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, and the principal investigator in a group that will report on the effort Thursday at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Dublin.

People with poor dental hygiene, especially those with bleeding gums, are prey to more than 700 different types of oral bacteria, Kerrigan noted. "When those bacteria get into the bloodstream, they interact with platelets, the blood cells that can clump. The bacteria can cause them to clump together to form clots that can partially block blood vessels," he said.

Kerrigan and his colleagues, including Dr. Howard F. Jenkinson of the University of Bristol, have been investigating the cell surface proteins that allow bacteria to interact with cell platelets.

"We are trying to find new drugs that prevent this interaction," Kerrigan said. "The treatment now for this condition is aggressive antibiotic treatment. With all the controversy about antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is emerging, it would be best not to use antibiotics. If we find the ways the bacteria are causing the platelets to clump, it would be a new treatment target."

Analysis of the genes of streptococci often found in the mouth has identified a number of proteins responsible for the adherence of bacteria to platelets, Kerrigan said. "We have a few targets that we are researching just now," he said. "We have some good leads at the moment, and are trying to refine what we have found."

While "there is no definitive study that shows a cause-and-effect relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease," said Sally Cram, a Washington, D.C. periodontist who is a consumer adviser to the American Dental Association, "we have a number of studies coming out that indicate a strong relationship between infection in the mouth and gums and other things in your health, such as diabetes and heart disease."

Even although the case may not be completely proven, she added, "I tell my patients that, given that periodontal disease is preventable by doing certain things that take five minutes a day, it is worth doing those things."

Cram's recommendations are standard: brush twice a day, floss once a day, see a dentist regularly or when signs of trouble appear.

"Especially if there is a family history of heart disease or diabetes, it makes common sense to help prevent gum disease," she said.

Good oral hygiene is a necessity because bacteria easily get into the bloodstream from the mouth, from routine activities such as chewing and from tooth brushing, said Peter Lockhart, chairman of the department of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte, N.C.

Earlier this year, Lockhart published a study of 290 dental patients showing that bacteria could be detected in 23 percent of them after tooth brushing, compared to 30 percent when a tooth was pulled after the patient took an antibiotic and 60 percent when no antibiotic was taken.

So oral hygiene is "a much more appropriate focus for prevention of endocarditis," infection of the lining of the heart or a heart valve, Lockhart said.

- Ed Edelson

More information

Learn about periodontal disease and its prevention from the American Dental Association.



SOURCES: Steve Kerrigan, Ph.D., principal investigator, Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin; Sally Cram, D.D.S., periodontist, Washington D.C.; Peter Lockhart, chairman, oral medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, N.C; Sept. 10, 2008, presentation, Society for General Microbiology, Dublin, Ireland

Last Updated: Sept. 11, 2008

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