The presence of specific bacteria and certain combinations of bacteria between the gums and the teeth could explain the relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers have discovered that certain oral bacteria, when combined in periodontal pockets, might increase the risk of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
Periodontal pockets are spaces between gums and the teeth which become deeper during periodontal disease and trap bacteria and debris.
Stefan Renvert, of the Department of Health Science at Kristianstad University, commented: "This might be one of several explanations as to why elevated bacteria and the combination of specific pathogens in periodontal pockets can be linked to a history of ACS.
"We also found that the amount of periodontal bacteria results in an inflammatory response that elevates the white blood cell counts and high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels, which has also been linked in past studies to heart disease."
The president of the American Academy of Periodontology, Kenneth Krebs, said that further research would be needed to evaluate the effects of reducing specific bacteria on reducing the risk for ACS.
Mr Krebs added: "This data highlights the importance of routine periodontal examinations and at-home dental care."
Finding an NHS dentist can be problematic, especially as many dentists have refused to sign NHS contracts in recent months and have decided to treat only private patients.
For many people, the most sensible option is to take out private dental insurance in order to control the costs of both routine and emergency dental treatment.